Pinkwashing in the NFL: Adrian Peterson and the Tragedy of Child Murder During Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Leaving October 2013 we were struck by how little attention has been given by the NFL towards Domestic Violence Awareness Month (visually: the Purple Ribbon) and especially in contrast to how much attention the NFL gives to Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

October is both Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month; yet you would never know this as the NFL only promotes Breast Cancer Awareness Month with pink gloves, pink shoes, pink goalposts, pink towels, pink jerseys and even pink "eye-black."

There are many problems with this "pinkwashing" but one we point to here is the fact that American Cancer Society receives a pittance of the money that comes to the NFL via the sales of this pink gear to fans and non-fans alike.

We are all for this recognition highlighting a form of cancer that each year strikes nearly 300,000 new women and kills approximately 40,000 women.

If the U.S. science research community approached the early detection and treatment of breast cancer the way we approach space exploration, and now sending private citizens to the moon, mars or wherever, we would be miles ahead on the issue of curing breast cancer.

If men were dying at the rate women are dying from breast cancer the road to a cure would have been paved long before now.

As a patriarchal society we surely care about women's boobs, but not enough to care about curing breast cancer.

Conversely we care even less about the lives of women and children who are beat, maimed and even killed at the hands of their intimate partners.

A million acts of domestic violence are reported each year and more disturbingly, 1,500 women are murdered each year by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners and it is estimated that 25-50 percent of this violence is committed in front of children.

Ironically, the NFL has been touched this last year with two domestic violence homicide tragedies; the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher and the tragic death in October of Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson's son, 2-year-old Tyrese Robert Ruffin, who was allegedly beaten and choked to death by his mother's boyfriend Joseph Robert Patterson.

The NFL chose to focus on the grief experienced by Adrian Peterson and failed to ask questions or raise the issue of the intervention and prevention of domestic violence that could have prevented this tragedy to begin with. And, tragic as Tyrese Robert Ruffin's death was, the NFL lost this same opportunity last year when Kansas City player Jovan Belcher shot and killed the mother of his child, Kassandra Perkins, in front of their 3-month old baby, before taking his own life in the parking lot of his team stadium in front of his coach.

A league that has high incidents of all types of crimes including domestic violence and domestic violence homicides should not remain silent on this issue that impacts not only their individual players but also families and even whole communities.

We did have hope that the NFL would act in a more pro-active manner when the most severe forms of domestic violence -- homicide and suicide -- impacted the members of their elite football club.

How much longer will we continued to be surprised and devastated when domestic violence hits high profile athletes? When will we be ready to have honest conversations about violence against women and children in the sincere hopes of preventing these types of tragedies in the future?
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: All of us have a responsibility to stop the violence, both in the NFL and out!

To read more about the tragedy of family violence check out our book The Social Dynamics of Family Violence.