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NFL: crackdown on domestic violence, not touchdown celebrations

Graphic+by+Charlotte+Alden.
Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

By Abby Snyder

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A few months ago on a Sunday in downtown Bethesda, a little boy in a Kirk Cousins jersey told his friend all about the Redskins quarterback, and how he wanted to grow up to be “just like him.”

This little boy is just one of countless children who idolize NFL players like Aaron Rodgers, J. J. Watt or Martellus Bennett. And for the most part, looking up to professional athletes is harmless or even beneficial. But not all football players are deserving of this praise; since 2000, there have been 108 charges of domestic violence against NFL players.

The NFL claims they are cracking down on domestic violence. But in December, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had an opportunity to follow through with the six-game minimum suspension for domestic abuse outlined in the league’s Personal Conduct Policy for players, against Giants kicker Josh Brown, and failed to do so.

According to an Oct. 19 Sports Illustrated article, Brown admitted in a personal journal to abusing his wife, but Goodell issued Brown a minimal one-game suspension. Despite this admission, the recommended charges against Brown were dropped. In defending his actions in the Brown case, Goodell said that such cases are “complex issues” and “difficult to deal with.”

The NFL should hold its players accountable for domestic violence and issue punishments that are consistent with their Personal Conduct Policy. They owe it to the countless kids who look up to football players, and since the league hasn’t hesitated to dole out four-game suspensions for relatively minor offenses like marijuana use, there’s every reason for them to properly punish domestic violence offenders as well.

Goodell can’t keep sending the message to kids that domestic violence will earn no more than a slap on the wrist. It’s a serious offense, and it’s time Goodell, and the NFL, treat it that way.

The league has taken minor steps toward pushing players to be better role models. This season, Goodell handed out several fines (including one fine of more than $24,000 to the Steelers’ Antonio Brown) for sexually suggestive touchdown celebration dances. But PG-13 dance moves are nothing compared to domestic violence, a point the NFL needs to consider if they want players to be a positive influence on kids.

Some, like Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sportswriter Martin Greenberg, argue that professional athletes shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than regular people—that these players didn’t sign up to be role models, they signed up to play football. But regardless of whether these players recognized the responsibility when they joined the league or whether it was thrust upon them, the fact is that the responsibility is theirs, and they need to live up to it, or at the very least follow the law and not hurt their wives and girlfriends.

The NFL has had plenty of opportunities to crack down on domestic violence: Brown, Ravens running back Ray Rice, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, and Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer, among several others. But they haven’t made a definitive statement despite continuous public outcry, including a #BoycottNFL Twitter hashtag which first surfaced in response to the Rice case.

Goodell can’t keep sending the message to kids that domestic violence will earn no more than a slap on the wrist. It’s a serious offense, and it’s time Goodell, and the NFL, treat it that way.

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NFL: crackdown on domestic violence, not touchdown celebrations