What the NFL Won’t Do About Domestic Violence
Chances are, everybody reading these words has seen the TMZ video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in an elevator. If you’re like me, you won’t soon forget seeing her slump onto the ground before he dragged her onto the casino floor.
What you might not remember from the 2012 incident are two facts: that Ray Rice had no prior instance of domestic abuse and that he was drunk at the time of the assault. I don’t highlight these to excuse his abhorrent, violent crime. He doesn’t make excuses about it, either. In a recent public appearance, he confided that one of the consequences he most regrets is the pending day when the couple’s daughter will inevitably see it for the first time on YouTube.
The NFL famously fumbled the Ray Rice case, drawing ire from victims advocates, media personalities, and America at large. Suffering an embarrassing public relations quagmire, they eventually standardized a penalty for its players accused of domestic abuse. This reputation Band-Aid stopped short of real change and influence because of one of the realities of the Ray Rice case.
Maybe the single biggest factor in reducing domestic violence is changing the rate of alcohol consumption for potential abusers.
The World Health Organization reported, “Alcohol consumption, especially at harmful and hazardous levels is a major contributor to the occurrence of intimate partner violence and links between the two are manifold.”1
The National Council on Drug Dependence (NCADD) put real numbers to that assertion:“Alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes today, and according to the Department of Justice, 37% of almost 2 million convicted offenders currently in jail, report that they were drinking at the time of their arrest.” In addition, they noted, “95% of all violent crime on college campuses involves the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim or both. 90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim or both.”2
Child abuse statistics from the NCADD show a similar trend. “Nearly 4 in 10 child victimizers reported that they had been drinking at the time of the crime. Among drinkers, about half reported that they had been drinking for 6 hours or more preceding the offense.“2
To be fair, nobody knows the percentage of alcohol correlation in unreported cases—mostly because most domestic violence goes unreported. Also, alcohol isn’t the root of abuse; but it makes it statistically more likely and exacerbates underlying emotional instability.
The NFL could pull a lever to influence domestic violence. It could shut off alcohol advertising like it was required to do with tobacco products years ago.
The problem is that NFL owners make literally billions of dollars from alcohol brands. Just their deal with Bud Light to be the official beer of the NFL rakes in more than $200 million each year and will until at least 2022.3 That doesn’t count the alcohol money built into their television partnerships, where at least one out of four commercial breaks includes an alcohol ad. Then there are the complicit relationships with sports networks like ESPN that depend heavily on alcohol advertiser income for their news and debate content.
Until NFL owners and the NFL Players Association are willing to put less money in their pockets, don’t expect their influence to go much farther than celebrity players recording public service announcements. In the meantime, use the awkward courage the NFL refuses to show. Intervene when you see a friend or family member on the verge of abusing alcohol. You might just be saving another precious someone from a different kind of abuse.
1 “Intimate partner violence and alcohol”
2 “Alcohol, Drugs and Crime”
3 “Anheuser-Busch, NFL extend partnership through 2022,” Darren Rovell.
Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com