Obviously, the NFL is in deep trouble over its badly bungled handling of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson domestic abuse scandals. TV viewership hasn’t been affected yet. But over the course of the heightened scrutiny, the League’s continued corporate hypocrisy, stonewalling and willful ignorance on the subject of domestic violence has become painfully clear.
Players get paid millions of dollars to routinely hurt and knock each other unconscious on the field, and are idolized for it. So it’s not inconceivable that it’s hard for them to detach from this conduct off the field.
What is inconceivable in this 24/7 news coverage and social media universe, however, is that the NFL had no comprehensive or consistent standards or procedures in place for dealing with the players who commit these acts. (Nor does it offer enough preventive education for players and staff.)
In an effort to be “transparent,” Roger Goodell held a 45- minute press conference last Friday that was more like a piece of stiff Commish-bot theater. In that entire time, Goodell never uttered the words “women” or “victims” once. (It was left to the press to bring them up in questions afterwards.) Rather, it was an exercise in distancing, with the commissioner making use of the English language in much the same passive-evasive way that Nixon explained Watergate: “Mistakes were made.”
Except, in this case, some PR crisis management person thought it would be a good thing for Goodell to repeatedly focus on “getting our house in order.”
So isn’t it downright weird to refer to the NFL as his “house” -- but still not have a clue about the nature of domestic violence -- at a conference devoted to that subject?
Perhaps that’s because the dwelling he’s getting in order is more like a corporate fortress or clubhouse, the equivalent of a little boy’s fort or tree house with a big sign outside: “No Girlz Allowed.”
But for adult men, such a clubhouse is not so cute. Lives are at stake. The awful truth is that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has a history of domestic violence, including an incident in which he allegedly threatened to murder an ex-girlfriend and beat her young son last year, according to London’s Daily Mail. As has been all over the news, he gave his four-year-old a “whooping” with a switch, leaving welts and open sores, and also hurt another of his sons last year. According to TMZ, he had yet another son whom he met for the first time while the son was on life support (he later died), a victim of a beating by his mother’s boyfriend.
Of course, it’s not just an NFL problem. Judges have routinely let Peterson off with a warning or a sentence of counseling.
But in that horrifying, context, for Goodell to say, “We will reexamine, enhance, and improve, and we will do more,” is beyond useless. Those are words more suited to advertising a floor wax -- or a power-washing process -- than a press conference. “These are problems we are committed to addressing,” he said, moving his lips but not saying anything. Afterwards, when asked about specifics, he answered, “That’s a question we should ask our experts.”
It’s great that he is bringing in three female domestic violence experts, and that he gave Anna Isaacson, one of the few female NFL execs on staff, the added title of “Vice President of Social Responsibility.”
Meanwhile, the Commissioner should be awarded a Ph.D. in Not Getting It.
A full 48% of NFL fans are women. These females want to be treated as regular fans, not as a separate and distinct part of the human race relegated to wearing pink wristbands and jerseys.
And as October is almost here, the glaring underlying problems of the NFL will only multiply.
Are you ready for some pink-washing? Yup, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and the NFL has long partnered with the American Cancer Society for "A Crucial Catch" campaign. That means that throughout October, NFL games feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink garments from head to toe, and using special pink game balls and pink coins.
So kudos to Procter & Gamble’s Crest brand, for being the only advertiser to have the, well, balls, and the good sense, to nix its own Breast Cancer Awareness initiative with the NFL way ahead of that wave of pinkness. (One part of its program involved having the players wear pink mouth guards.) At the press conference, Goodell acknowledged that the Crest promo would be “inconsistent with what’s going on here,” meaning that it promotes wellness for women while the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases remain unresolved.
The only reason that Goodell is attempting to campaign for public approval now is that several advertisers have issued critical statements. It’s been pointed out that when Anheuser-Busch has to be your guide to morality and ethics, you’re in sad shape. Pepsi was critical of the league’s actions, too, but by the end of its statement came out in support of Goodell.
Whereas the Radisson hotel chain suspended its sponsorship of the Vikings right after Peterson’s child-injury incident was made public. And the brand has garnered a wave of positive reaction on Twitter and other social media for the move.
But by dispensing with its Crest deal, P&G is the first advertiser to put the kibosh on a huge, league-wide sponsorship. “Crest believes Breast Cancer Awareness is a critically important program to support women and their health, and, as planned, is making a $100,000 donation to the American Cancer Society,” it said in a statement. “The brand has decided to cancel on-field activation with NFL teams.”
There’s more trouble afoot: NFL's Breast Cancer Awareness Month has drawn criticism because the league reportedly donates just a small portion of its proceeds toward cancer research.
It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. One thing Goodell did admit in response to the press questioning how he could have gotten his decision-making wrong so many times, was that “we didn’t have the right voices at the table.”
That’s true. And one major part of getting your “house in order” means opening up the door to the fort or the clubhouse, and letting women in. We’re half the population, half the fans. It will be a breath of fresh air. And some of us don’t even like pink.