VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IS BEING RECOGNIZED IN SPORTS, THE MILITARY AND UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES: The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 is central to the discussion 2014 of the need for change.
Roger Goodell yesterday announced a plan to train, teach and engage athletes in a response to the domestic abuse which has been a part of the background noise that is now front and center time for not just punishing offenders, or the bystanders -coaches, police, media – but to the source of domestic violence. On the same day, President Obama announced “It’s Up to Us” about violence against women on college campuses. The time is now that the long look at the cause of the violence and training and education of men and women be offered and sustained going forward. The flashpoint has lit up a dark part of our world and it’s time for light and education to take this issue on fully.
In recent months NFL football players Ray Rice of Baltimore and Ray Mc Donald of the San Francisco 49ers and six other players were exposed in acts of violence against women (and family) within weeks of each other. Now the world is watching. There is a demand to change the policies within the sports world to condemn the behavior of these sports athletes, and any others that might follow. There is talk of dire consequences and dismissal by NFL from their multi million dollar careers should these athletes fail to meet those standards of not hitting women. Trained most of the time since high school, these athletes of age early twenties to late twenties are trained to hurl their bodies without mercy onto the fields and the players with different jerseys. Brutality is an asset, quick moves automatic without consideration for bodily harm-theirs or the player across from them is the game. A football is the focus, reaching and grasping stretching and extending the body and mind to whatever it takes to get to cross the line to the goal. Like the ancient gladiators, their spent bodies are of no concern to the sports fans, the producers of the league or the team owners. Head trauma, broken knees, arms, hips and pelvises that result for these young bodies and minds are being given some attention these days. Head trauma, concussions are now being recognized not only for the immediate destructive consequence, but the long range potential consequences of Parkinsons, Alzheimers as well as the documented link to the conditions of alcohol and prescription drug abuse. There is the dawning recognition of the cost to young athletes who pay for a lifetime for the violent use of their bodies.
For the young athletes who suddenly have huge sums of money offered to them, and fame-they are the winners in the lottery of life. They have little training in how to manage their extraordinary lives. They are perceived as heroes, and are paid extremely well once professional football players. For the general public the headlines report their car accidents, their fights with other players and their mates, just like other celebrities in the entertainment business. Just like other celebrities they are public property from which the excitement about them, their lifestyles and their traumatic losses sell newspapers, keep the sports radio shows going, and add to the drama on the football field. For all of u s on the sideline, the justification of the use and exploitation of these young men is the millions they are paid, the cars they drive and the plays they make on the field.
The Ray Rice video with his now wife in the elevator looks very similar to the Beyonce video just months ago where Beyonce’s sister, like the woman in the Rice video is rushing in anger, hands raised in a state of upset. Beyonce’s sister is seen rushing toward Jay Z, but in steps the body guard who holds the woman back and stands between Jay Z and Beyonce’s sister. In the Rice video, his now wife rushes toward him, goes to hit him, and he makes one blow and she collapses like a paper doll. It’s hard to see a woman get knocked unconscious, and no one would have seen it if there had not been the 24/7 surveillance cameras on the hotel elevator-just like in the Beyonce elevator video.
Sports writers and Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC are all speaking about the line crossed because of the Rice video. What cannot be denied in witnessing the Ray Rice video is that a very dark area that has been hidden from view has been shown in the light of day to all the world. Men hitting women and their being a consequence started with the suffragists who got together because of what they called “bloody Saturday nights.” The men would stay at the bars in the 1920’s, spend all their paychecks and then many came home and beat their wives. The response by the Temperance Union to close the bars was motivated by the safety of women from the drunken assaults.
In 1994, twenty years ago The Violence Against Women Act became legal; it is reported that there has been a 64% reduction in violence against women. However, that reduction cannot include what wasn’t reported by women getting hit and not reporting it. Nor does it include the casual and frequent response of police when called with their position of blaming both parties in an assault by a man situation. That was what happened with the police in the case of Ray Rice and his wife. This video has stirred up the recognition that more needs to be done to train the powers that be to respond with absolute unequivocal effective demands. For the coaches, for the police, for the public the no tolerance for assault to a woman is being called for. In the realm of testosterone laden football athletes, the demand for managing themselves is being revealed as not an option but a demand that needs to be met by the players, by the coaches and by the commissioners and their responses to assaults by players.
The business of sports is now front and center in the headlines, the threat to fire Roger Goodell, the sports commissioner seen now as slow to respond to the dangers of concussion, as well as responding poorly and ineffectively as commissioner with the low cost and penalties for players who have been publicly called out for hitting their mates. The status quo is being challenged, the almost immediate firing of Ray Rice after the video was seen had a dynamic effect, stopped all action and presented assault by players toward women as not to be tolerated. Fired from his team, Rice also had the NFL take his privilege to play football ever again. Ray Mc Donald of the 49ers is soon to be taken to court to answer for his assault, though he continues to play for the 49ers. It is expected he will have a similar fate as Ray Rice.
But those response are not going to change the direction of the long hidden traumas behind hotel doors of testosterone driven male athletes trained to act, not think, hit and dominate and win through assaults made to other players on a field. It will change the policies of tolerance on the teams, in the leagues and with the commissions. But as has been said by various authorities after the Rice video aired on national television, for brutality and assault to change for professional football players, the training, the references and the assigned values and the learning of appropriate behavior in the high school football league is where it should all begin for young athletes. Much earlier than professional football for the athletes will make a difference.
But doesn’t it also comes down to all of us sitting at home with our 90 inch cable tv’s, or in the $600 box seating for 4 at the national league football games, or on the monitor of our computers? The game as it is being played uses the bodies and minds of young men who often live the rest of their lives in some form of pain often masked by alcohol and drug use and risky behavior the authorities say. The platform of professional football that we enjoy as entertainment makes us collaborators and conspirators of how the game is played now. It is we who must change our response to the brutality that has become the sport of football. It is we who must consider not getting the season ticket if it’s going to amount to contributing to the delinquency of the morals and practices tolerated in the league of professional sports. We can no longer pretend we don’t know, we do know now and we must choose our response to this sports tradition of physical trauma for the players in the game, and what they take off the game to their hotel rooms. Everyone has a part to play in delving into and righting a long tolerated wrong.
Goodell has taken on consultants, women and two groups that work directly with violence against women to create and establish a training/education that takes learned behavior to new behavior by the athletes we pay to be violent on the field. We will all continue to watch as this potential development unfolds.