A poll conducted last year by the Harris Poll confirmed that pro football is the most popular sport in the USA for the 30th straight year. 35 percent of sports fans 18 years and older call the NFL their favorite sport, with MLB over 20 percent behind at only 14 percent of viewers' favorite. Just these results alone show how large of an influence the NFL can have on sports fans and others. Therefore, as the most popular sport and perhaps the most influential, the NFL has the opportunity to set an example and take a stance against domestic violence.
In some ways, the NFL has done just that. At this year's Super Bowl, the NFL used its own airtime to broadcast a chilling and impactful commercial on domestic violence, sparking a nationwide discussion on the topic. More recently, the NFL pledged $5 million a year for five years to aid The National Domestic Violence Hotline in opening an office in Washington, DC to increase the number of calls it can respond to. This generous donation has allowed the hotline to increase the amount of calls it responds to from just 50 percent to approximately 75 percent. Moreover, most likely as a result of the NFL's influence, the SEC passed a rule this past May banning any players involved in domestic violence assaults from signing with another college. These tougher transfer rules for accused abusive athletes can be seen as a continuation of the NFL's recent condemnation of domestic violence.
Despite all this progress, Greg Hardy, a player for the Dallas Cowboys accused of choking a woman, had his suspension reduced through arbitration from 10 games to a measly four. Hardy was initially found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder, but the conviction was overturned when Holder failed to appear in court for the appeal. As Kavitha Davidson astutely points out in her article in BloombergView, "I'm not going to go into the many reasons victims often don't testify against their attackers, especially NFL players." Davidson continues to point out that now Hardy stands to serve a similar punishment to Tom Brady's for deflating a couple footballs. In other words, allegedly choking a women and deflating footballs are deserving of equal punishment.
As punishment is still pending for accused former player Ray McDonald under a newly implemented policy, the NFL has a chance to finally prove itself as a positive force in the fight against domestic violence.
CORRECTION: This post has been updated to clarify that the decision to reduce Greg Hardy's suspension was made by an independent arbitrator, not the NFL.