Tag Archives: NFL

Men in sports speak out against Interpersonal Violence (IPV)

5 Nov, 2014

Amidst all the news coverage of the Rice family and their struggles there were voices of men taking an unequivocal stance against IPV, asking us to take a look at the roots of violence, recognizing the societal nature of the problem, and saying this is not ok and it has got to stop.

These voices are different than:

  • #notallmen (we never said ALL men), or
  • men saying women are abusive too (we never said it was only one gender who abuses, please don’t derail our conversation), or
  • men saying you are exaggerating or overstating (please don’t deny our lived experiences), or
  • men saying we should do better because the victims are your mothers, sisters, daughters (we all should do better because no one should be hurt whether or not they have status via a relationship to a man).

For example, we have James Brown – TV anchor for CBS Sports, spoke on camera at the end of a pre-game broadcast to say:

…this problem is bigger than football. There has been, appropriately so, intense and widespread outrage following the release of the video showing what happened inside the elevator at the casino. But wouldn’t it be productive if this collective outrage, as my colleagues have said, could be channeled to truly hear and address the long-suffering cries for help by so many women? And as they said, do something about it? Like an on-going comprehensive education of men about what healthy, respectful manhood is all about.

And it starts with how we view women. Our language is important. For instance, when a guy says, ‘you throw the ball like a girl’ or ‘you’re a little sissy,’ it reflects an attitude that devalues women and attitudes will eventually manifest in some fashion. …

So this is yet another call to men to stand up and takes responsibility for our thoughts, words and deeds. As Deion Sanders says, “To give help or get help”. Our silence is deafening and deadly.

If we changed this statement to be more gender neutral so as not to erase the experiences of people not fitting the strict gender binary and to acknowledge that all genders are both perpetrators and victims of IPV, it would be even more powerful.

Yes. The problem is bigger than football. Yes. Let’s stop wringing our hands at the violence of football players, as if they alone are the perpetrators (or condoners) of such behavior. Yes. Let’s actually listen to the people who tell their stories and believe them and address their needs. Yes. Let’s ensure there is on-going education to change both beliefs and behaviors about gender roles and violence. Yes. Let’s acknowledge that holding beliefs that some humans are less human or less valuable than others is seriously problematic because those beliefs manifest in behaviors that are harmful.

Melissa McEwan writes, “Privilege is dangerous. Supremacist thinking is dangerous. Dehumanization is dangerous. Failing to view another human as your equal, failing to acknowledge and respect their humanity, is dangerous.”

Terry Crews, former NFL player and popular actor, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, describes his experiences as a child in a home with violence, and his take on the belief systems that foster IPV:

Men we are responsible, it starts with us. … There is something wrong and its not getting better, its getting worse. … And all the pink gloves and all the little pink trinkets and accessories are not going to not fix the problem that this domestic violence has been having on the NFL and the male culture in general. …We are still treating women as less than.

“The NFL culture, the sports culture, has decided that they are more valuable than women,” Crews believes. “I’ve heard people laugh about keeping their pimp hand strong and keeping her in control and so that she knows her place. But when you think about how evil that is for one man to think that he’s actually more valuable than a woman, because as a human being your worth is immeasurable.”

“Because of my stance on domestic violence and standing [up] for women I have tons of men coming at me like ‘You are a punk, you are a punk, look at you, get your skirt and go pop your pecks somewhere’…This is the mentality I’m talking about, the challenge, the male pride. … Pride is a thing that kills you. … Male pride is so tough that they feel that any time a woman back talks it’s they’d rather die than stand for that, than actually have a women tell them what’s up and then they would say, ‘Ok you know what, I got to hit her. I got to lash out.’”

As a hockey fan and the aunt of a girl hockey player, I worry about the culture she is in and will continue to be playing in, as just one of a few girls on her team. For now, she knows her teammates “have her back” when there are rare occasions of being belittled as a girl. They stand up for her and stand up against rude remarks or put-downs. The coaches too have her back – the NHL has decided to take a strong stand with a strict ban on homophobic, racist and sexist language on the ice or in the locker rooms and this practice trickles down to the Youth Hockey level. Beliefs and behaviors can be silently condoned or immediately discouraged or penalized, setting a tone that lasts throughout the players’ lives. On her team, it’s not ok and everyone knows it, including the parents.

This policy shows up in the contrasting treatment NHL players receive when they are accused of physical abuse. For example, Ms. Magazine reports:

“Unlike the National Football League (NFL), which had to wait for not one but two videos of player Ray Rice physically abusing his fiancée before it took strict action against him, the NHL acted immediately on Monday after a Sunday night incident in which Los Angeles Kings hockey player Slava Voynov was arrested on suspicion of having injured a woman who then needed emergency room attention. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suspended Voynov with pay, and Kings coach Darryl Sutter seconded the decision:

Absolutely, it’s very appropriate. Obviously, we have strong feelings about [domestic violence]. … Obviously the league has made a strong stand on it.’

It’d be great if everyone thought “obviously.”

A day later ESPN reports: “These developments are of great concern to our organization,” the Kings said in a statement. “We support the NHL’s decision to suspend Slava Voynov indefinitely during this process, and we will continue to take appropriate action as the legal proceedings and the investigation by the NHL take their course.”

While these men deserve all the kudos for their willingness to be out front on this issue, despite the personal blowback they may receive; let’s not forget the women who have been working for years and decades with no spotlight, to end domestic violence.

The documentary Private Violence addresses the underlying issues and context that allows domestic violence to be so prevalent in the U.S.: “willful ignorance that often results in victim-blaming, unrealistic expectations of women, and a criminal justice system markedly unresponsive to victims and survivors.”

Next week, we look at facts, myths and context for IPV to wrap our series. There are amazing resources and information available to further our understanding.

Please join us each week and invite others to do so as well.




Starting with something beautiful: Comrade by Gabby Cogan – an incredible dance piece, inspired by her readings on IPV.


This month began with an email from someone who knows Prepare for the work we do at her school. “Someone I know is in a violent relationship and she has a young child; she wants to leave but is scared. Can you help her?”

Our colleague’s friend is dealing with her relationship outside the public eye. But some stories make the news, especially when celebrities and athletes are involved, as is the case with professional football player Ray Rice and his caught-on-tape knockout punch of Janay Palmer Rice. One of the important lessons I’ve learned from teaching Walk the Talk (anti-bias, anti-bullying curriculum) and gaining more media literacy is to ask, “Whose voices are represented?” and “Whose voices are left out?”

For DVAM, I am doing my first media round-up. I will be looking at how various media outlets covered this story . Even using the term story matters – it distances us from the fact that these are real people with real pain and struggles. It’s not a fictional portrayal of violence and the aftermath, but the lives of human beings not unlike those we may know in our own personal lives – like the person who emailed Prepare earlier this month.

Part 1 – Whose perspectives are represented?

Typically, consumers have a few favorite sources for news, which means only a few points of view influence one’s perspective on a given topic or event. Violence however doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To better understand the Rice family’s experience, we can gain greatly by being exposed to a wider variety of viewpoints that take into account the larger social context: issues of violence against women, Intimate Partner Violence, and the particular experience of IPV for black women, the social place of sports and glamorized aggression in this country, racism, classism, and privilege, issues of punishment, forgiveness and the comeback story. Lastly, I have to acknowledge the limits of my own perspective, so it’s on me to trust the voices of people with different identities when they speak from their perspective.

Take a moment and reflect on where you got your information about this event. Have you been speaking about this with friends or family? What do they say about Janay and Ray?

First we have Ray and Janay’s statements in interviews, at press conferences and through social media. Spokespersons for law enforcement and the casino contributed to the information flow. Media voices from TV, print, and Internet coverage were supplemented by content from experts in the field such as authors, researchers and mental health professionals. Women’s organizations such as NOW and the Black Women’s Roundtable of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation spoke out. Sexual assault and IPV experts and advocates contributed important information, and provided various sources for statistics [1] and resources [2]. @Rihanna was drawn in to the media fray.

We heard from the world of football: Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, owner Steve Bisciotti, and General Manager Ozzie Newsome, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, current and former players, coaches and owners from other teams and the National Football League Players Association. The current and former wives of NFL players also weighed in.

Social media had a large role as well. Hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft documented the perspective of people who have experienced IPV and #FireGoodell and #ResignGoodell added to the public conversation. NFL Game Changer was started as a way to encourage the NFL to take a larger role in combating the problem of IPV. Comments posted at online sites for major news media stories and in response to bloggers’ posts kept the conversation going.

As pointed out in more than one place, the voices not represented are those of the victims of IPV who have died at the hands of their abusers. Also not represented, the voice of the couple’s young child.

Whose voices/whose perspectives are heard – matters.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at the Rice family story from numerous perspectives:

Part 2 –Ray and Janay speak for themselves, hashtags and social media center the voices of survivors and advocates

Part 3 – The football world weighs in, @Terry Crews (Terry Crews, actor and former pro-football player) and @JBSportscaster (James Brown, anchor for CBS Sports and former collegiate athlete) speak up

Part 4 – Context and facts about IPV

[1] US Dept. of Justice, 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Report NIPSV, Women of Color Network Facts & Stats Collection, National Domestic Violence Hotline Statistics

[2] National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233, Jacqueline Campbell’s Danger Assessment Tool, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence Resources from dangerassessment.org.