The National Football League opened its 2014 season last night. We hope the Seattle Seahawks chalked up a victory over the Green Bay Packers, and that it’s the first of many on their way to another Super Bowl title.
Any NFL team trying to build a strong community of loyal fans -- such as the Seahawks famous12th Man -- knows that it must do two things to rally and sustain a high level of support: win championships and demonstrate high moral standards.
Sadly, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reached a little too late, and a little too short in his quest for moral nobility. And the moral pall he cast over the league may affect all its teams – even our revered Seahawks.
The commissioner fumbled badly by imposing only a two-game suspension on Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who nearly beat his wife to death and dragged her unconsciousness out of an elevator. Such a disgusting act of domestic violence should have earned Rice a bus ticket to therapy and a door slamming on his way out of the league.
Goodell went soft in a tough man’s game. But, the NFL didn’t have a clear policy on domestic violence. So maybe he was protecting the league from legal action, and we hoped the Rice incident was the wake-up call to draft a tough, zero-tolerance policy.
As it turned out, Goodell didn’t have the guts. Instead of announcing a revised NFL policy that unequivocally denounces domestic violence as wrong in every manifestation, Goodell threw a duck.
The new rule increases the punishment from a two-game suspension to six games, and a life time ban for a second offense. It’s tougher, but it didn’t go far enough. At a minimum, players convicted of domestic violence should receive a year-long, or 16-game suspension.
Instead of aspiring to greatness by setting a high standard for how his multi-millionaire players should treat fellow human beings, he coddled owners who want jacked-up aggressive players and don’t want to lose their on-field talents during a run for the Super Bowl.
It apparently wasn’t enough of a deterrent to the San Francisco 49ers’ Ray McDonald who was arrested just three days later for physically harming his pregnant wife.
It's unacceptable for the NFL or any organization not to take domestic violence seriously. It is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States of America. More than 5 million women are abused annually, resulting in nearly 2 million injuries. Worse yet, about 1,200 women were killed by an intimate partner last year. That’s more than three murdered women each day.
Our football teams, and indeed our entire society, must do a better job in making sure that our mothers, sisters and daughters are safe and respected. Abuse and battery are anathema to American ideals of equality and personal freedom.
Men must step up their "game" and, even in the midst of romantic rejection, learn to control their behavior and not subject women to fear and physical abuse.
It would be kind to call the NFL’s new rule a good first step. But the NFL, and other organizations, must do far more to end domestic violence and send a clear message that it will not be tolerated, ever, anywhere.