Over the past few years, the NFL has been plagued with a particular behavioral issue. Many of the off field problems have to do with violence towards women. The most prominent incident was when Ray Rice assaulted his girlfriend and dragged her unconscious body out of an elevator. This sparked national awareness of the problem, as well as outrage amongst fans and critics of the NFL. Since then, many similar incidents have occurred, although not all of the violence has been towards women. In 2014, Adrian Peterson was charged with abusing his son. He was suspended for the whole NFL season, and much stricter punishments have been set for offenders after these two incidents.
Meanwhile, some believe that Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, has been unfair with his various punishments. They argue that it is unjust that players such as Josh Gordon, who abused various illicit substances, have much stricter punishments than those who perpetrate domestic violence. Recently Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys star running back, was accused of abusing his girlfriend. He was given a six game suspension, which many thought was not enough. Elliott also pushed back the suspension for the majority of the season, and continued to play despite his actions. As a result, many have begun to question the strictness of the NFL’s policies when it comes to domestic violence.
Roger Goodell has received much of the flak when it comes to the criticism of this issue, which has become prominent enough to gather national attention and damage the NFL’s reputation. This has led to many calling for a change in leadership. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys says that Goodell should not be given a contract extension, and that he has dealt with numerous domestic violence cases poorly. In addition, many players also have negative feelings towards the commissioner of the league. Navorro Bowman, a player for the Oakland Raiders, said that Goodell’s contract extension is a “slap in the face.” Much of the negative attitude towards him has been due to his controversial handling of domestic violence cases.
Many teams downplay the need for punishing those who commit the crimes. Joe Mixon, a rookie running back on the Cincinnati Bengals, was recorded punching a woman and breaking multiple bones in her face. He was still selected in the second round of the NFL draft. After Adrian Peterson, the aforementioned player that abused his son, had his suspension ended, the Minnesota Vikings allowed him to come back into his starting role. Similarly, the President of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones, defended Ezekiel Elliott after he was suspended. Teams do not punish their players strictly enough, and as a result, players are not deterred from violent action. If the teams were more strict, many of these incidents could be avoided and prevented from happening in the first place.
Some teams fail to recognize the underlying issue at hand. There is a need for better care of concussions in the NFL, college football, and for younger players. Further on in life, those who suffered many concussions can develop CTE, or severe brain damage. CTE can make players more violent, possibly leading to murders and abuse. Without proper care and treatment for the players, we will continue to see a trend of domestic abuse in the NFL. If everyone works together to try to fix the problem, then the number of cases will go down substantially. This means stricter punishments, and taking players out if they have suffered head damage.
Graphic: Amelia Chen