A recent online domestic violence ad promoted by women's advocacy group, Ultraviolet, features a woman on a football field being tackled by a player. It is followed by on-screen text that reads, "55 NFL abuse cases unanswered." Originally, Sports Illustrated refused to run the ad, but are now claiming that their refusal was only because of a "technical glitch." Co-founder of Ultraviolent was quoted saying, "The NFL is one of the most powerful institutions in this country. If they truly wanted to change the dynamic around domestic violence, they could."
All of this controversy comes in the wake of the now infamous Ray Rice scandal. In response to allegations that football player Ray Rice of the Ravens violently attacked his wife, commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, announced that Ray Rice would be suspended for only 2 games. Once celebrity gossip website TMZ posted footage of Rice punching his wife across the face, Rice's punishment changed. In a second announcement by the NFL, Rice was indefinitely suspended. Immediately, questions rose as to why the NFL originally crafted such a light punishment for Rice without fully understand the gravity of the situation. In what may have been a desperate attempt to maintain the NFL's reputation, Goodell made a bold statement regarding domestic violence in the September 2014 announcement concerning Rice's suspension. He said,"Second, and most importantly, these incidents demonstrate that we can use the NFL to help create change. Not only in our league, but in society with respect to domestic violence and sexual assault."
5 months since the incident and on the day of the Super Bowl, one of the largest watched television programs across the country, the question stands: What has the NFL done to prevent domestic violence like Goodell suggested? To make amends for the serious lack of judgment in the original punishment of player Ray Rice, the NFL aired and sponsored a one minute long anti-domestic violence ad during this years Super Bowl. The ad was created by a coalition of organizations that fight domestic violence, called "No More," and it featured a discrete 911-phone call made by a battered woman. Judging by the response from the public, the effects of the commercial were exactly as desired. It was chilling, impactful, and fully paid for by the NFL; three things that made the commercial almost enough to stop the public from only associating the NFL with the Ray Rice incident.
This brave move made by the NFL is what domestic violence organizations hope is a step in the right direction to end the "cover ups" of domestic violence nationally. The ad screens at the end "Its hard to talk, its up to us to listen." Domestic violence is attached to the stigma that victims have the choice to leave and just don't take it. But, as this video accurately depicts, domestic violence victims are often trapped in abusive relationships for a variety of reasons. In my book, Ending Domestic Violence Activity: A guide to economic freedom, I explain that when we ask questions like "Why does she stay?" it reflects our desire to help. We assume that since the victim has the option to leave the abusive relationship, it is not in our responsibility to help her. As I describe in my book, understanding the reasons women are stuck in abusive situations will affect our willingness to help; "it [will] affect the form such help will take; and it [will] affect the underlying purposes of offering help (31)." Perhaps taking the pledge to say "no more" on No More's website is just a start. To properly fight domestic violence we must do more than be aware of the existence of it, we must study the causes of it and how to prevent those causes.