In a world that has made so much progress in transforming the roles of women and diminishing the influence of expectations of male dominance and patriarchy, it seems as though some aspects of modern society are still stuck in the past.
In the past two years, the National Football League has been rocked by a series of cases that questioned the player culture and tarnished the leadership abilities of Commissioner Roger Goodell. While players are not known for their personal qualities - kindness will not win anyone a Super Bowl - it seems as though athletic ability is held at a much higher standard than it should be. Athleticism and skill is important, but should they completely override important issues of morality and human decency?
Surely, the NFL has had problems with players for years but one of the more recent cases surrounds rookie quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Erica Kinsman, a student at Florida State University, which Winston attended, accused him of rape in 2012. A settlement was finally reached in 2016, as FSU agreed to pay Kinsman $950,000 while Winston was in Hawaii preparing for the Pro Bowl. While no action has been taken by the NFL, likely due to lack of investigation, this is not the first time the NFL has dealt with cases of sexual abuse and rape.
“Things get swept under the table,” Oakland Raiders fan and senior Alexis Prieto said.
In 2014, controversy surrounded Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after it was revealed that he beat his then-fianceè, Janay Palmer. However, the criticism continued after a video released online by TMZ showed Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator. While the NFL, which at first only suspended Rice for two games, claimed to not have seen the video, it was later revealed that they did see the video and did not admit to it.
Although the Ray Rice case characterizes the lack of an effective and consistent policy by the NFL on players who commit crimes of domestic abuse, it also demonstrates the promotion of a culture that supports male superiority at the expense of women. Even Palmer, who has now been married to Rice for over a year, stood by his side after the abuse. While the public surely cannot understand the entire dynamic of their relationship, it’s heartbreaking to see a woman stand by her abusive partner.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a woman is beaten every nine seconds in the United States. Even more concerning is the fact that one in three women worldwide has been a victim of physical violence at the hands of her partner. This kind of physical abuse often transforms itself into mental abuse and can often lead to depression or even suicide.
Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is present in almost all aspects of society: the NFL is definitely not isolated in its issues regarding domestic abuse. However, for a national league to limit their action to a two-game suspension with knowledge of such abuse is simply unacceptable.
“[Rice] has to pay the price,” Prieto said.
Despite the accusations, Jameis Winston continues to develop what will likely be an exceptional NFL career and it seems unlikely that any further investigations will be pressed. While that may seem unfair, what’s worse is that Ray Rice may make a comeback in the 2016 season if one of the 32 teams is desperate enough to sign him.
It’s time for the NFL to devise a consistent and effective policy on sexual abuse, thus setting a standard not only for the players but also for the rest of American society.