Teams Succumb To Media On Domestic Violence Issues


It’s going to be difficult to write this knowing that so many readers are passionate about the subject. It’s a dominating topic in the NFL and isn’t likely to go away any time soon. By contrast it dwarfs the Jonathan Martin saga that plagued the Miami Dolphins in 2013. It’s the domestic abuse issue and it’s hard to understand what the NFL is doing at this moment because frankly it appears they are taking this a bit too far.

As you read this you need to know about me. I am not a sports journalist by trade, this is my passion and my dedicated hobby. By trade i’m a paramedic and have been for the past 15 years. There is nothing that I have not witnessed in that timeframe. Some have taken me to highs I never knew possible while others should have required therapy. Domestic abuse for most if not all police, EMT’s and paramedics is a daily call.

There are two types of domestic abuse, physical and verbal and while one leaves scars on the body they both leave scars on the mind. For the purpose of this we will look at the physical abuse because as we all know that is the most reprehensible.

Domestic abuse has been an ongoing issue for the NFL long before Ray Rice decided to knock his fiancé’ out in an Atlantic City elevator. His was simply the most recent and highly profiled and it came on the tail of a year long suspension for one player who smoked pot. Thus the two game suspension was far too lenient. The Ray Rice issue is so wide that not only has he lost his job but the NFL Commissioner may in the end lose his. Rice’s actions and that of the NFL have become the first dominos to fall.

Last week we learned of Adrian Peterson’s child abuse issue and his indictment a week prior we talked about the 49’ers Ray McDonald. On Saturday Carolina Panther owner Jerry Richardson issued a tear welling statement that he would be benching star Greg Hardy due to a domestic abuse case that was in court over the summer. It seems as though it’s the “in” thing to do these days. While the Panthers, Vikings, and Ravens have all made clear points on their players facing charges the 49’ers have opted to not bench McDonald and frankly I applaud them.

This is not a case of me dignifying what McDonald did as blasé’, it is not. There are no circumstances where a woman should be forced to endure physical or verbal mistreatment by a man but there is a process here and it should start with clear guidelines from the NFL and not the media. Since when does the media decide the discipline a player deserves? Greg Hardy was allowed to play week one but media backlash forced him to make an example out of Hardy in week two.

Under the new rules that passed, a domestic violence incident should cost a player six games. If that were the case than McDonald, Peterson, Hardy, and Rice should all be facing the same level of suspensions. So why are the teams doling out a punishment? To save face. That wasn’t a question but the answer. NFL teams are wanting to look strong in the face of public and media outcry and make no mistake this is exactly what is going on. The media is bleeding the topic dry, why else would they post images of Peterson’s four year old son for the world to see? Did it occur to them that he is a minor and should be protected? There is a court system that our country has in place and if they are not doing their jobs correctly then our attention needs to be turned towards them.

Understand domestic violence makes me sick. It brings back too many memories because not all DV cases end with a simple trip to the hospital. Many end up with trips to the morgue. Adults and unfortunately more often than not, children. I know, I’ve seen it first hand. That being said there is no process for these players. They may not deserve a process but that is the legal system. Instead we are seeing the NFL waver and the teams trying to show they are strong in the face of public outcry.

Greg Hardy’s benching is the clearest case of media influencing decisions. Over the summer Hardy was charged and convicted on several misdemeanor charges of assault and battery on his then girlfriend and was given a sentence of 18 months of probation and a 60-day suspended sentence for the misdemeanors with which he was charged. The Panthers should have made a statement then, not in week two after the NFL failed to levee a penalty and not after the public and media called for a sentence.

This is getting to the point of ridiculous.

The 49’ers are waiting to see what happens with the McDonald case before they make a decision but here is the confusing portion to all of this. What happens if McDonald is suspended now and is then found guilty later, say two to three months from now? Do the 49’ers suspend him again? The media will not accept that he served his suspension already. What if he is found to be not guilty?

The same situation applies to Peterson. We have all seen the pictures and if you haven’t your not missing anything, Peterson is guilty in the public eye and while the initial investigation failed to levee a penalty or an indictment on Peterson a 2nd grand jury has now seen fit to do so. The backlash towards the Vikings by the media is calling for Peterson to be cut or traded. Should he too not be indefinitely suspended by the NFL like Ray Rice? Rice knocked his wife out, Peterson took a switch to his four year old son causing cuts and bruises to the boys lower body.

Where exactly is the commonality of the leagues domestic abuse policy? Are teams to make their own rules and govern their own players now? It was a short three years ago when the Miami Dolphins immediately cut Chad Johnson after he head butted his wife and was arrested. The team didn’t wait for an NFL ruling they made a decision that was best for them. Of course there was no policy in place at that time.

The point here is that the messages being sent are too wide spread to understand what exactly is going on. Lost in it all is the message it should be sending to these players, “don’t commit acts of violence against your family”. At some point the NFL needs to put a halt to these acts of suspensions. There is no precedence outside of what we have seen in the last two weeks. If Peterson is not being suspended yet and if he is not given an indefinite suspension then why did Ray Rice? Because there was a video? Peterson has pictures.

I don’t have an answer at least one that is clearly formulated that satisfies the cries of the public and gives the media nothing to report. Maybe a mandatory two game team suspension when the event occurs and a revisit after the legal system concludes it’s processes. There is no simple answer to any of this. Who decides who’s action was more severe? Who decides the length of a suspension? The media?

Domestic violence is wrong and if anything comes out of this awareness in and of itself will be the main benefactor. The NFL can not be soft with their discipline and teams can not succumb to media begging. Unfortunately there is zero continuity across the NFL on these issues right now. Make no mistake there needs to be clear and swift decisions made on cases of domestic violence within the NFL but this is all haphazard at the moment and that can’t continue. I applaud teams taking the steps to discipline their players but they must be allowed to do it in their ways or in the ways of the NFL. This is starting to get out of hand and it’s the NFL’s job to put a stop to it. Unfortunately Roger Goodell is smack in the middle of his own issues regarding Ray Rice. I suppose it’s good enough that the teams are at least doing something.

UPDATE: The Minnesota Vikings will play Adrian Peterson this coming week (week three). In a team released statement, owner Zygi Wulf made the announcement.

"“Today’s decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration,” the statement read. “As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue. On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved.“To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support Adrian’s fulfillment of his legal responsibilities throughout this process.”"

…And that is how it should be.