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American Football The NFL is struggling to deal with issues of domestic violence

WHILE sitting down on Thursday night to tune into the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, uncomfortable audio was released of Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill telling his wife she should “be terrified of him too” in an altercation that revolved around the pass catcher striking his three-year-old son.

This was not a first offence for the star pass catcher. In December 2014, Hill — then plying his trade in college for Oklahoma State University — was arrested on charges of domestic assault and battery. 

Hill plead guilty to punching and choking his then pregnant girlfriend — the same woman who was involved in the more recent altercation.

Later last Thursday evening, the Tennessee Titans drafted defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, who in 2016 was found guilty of malicious mischief and assault when he was seen on video repeatedly striking a woman on the ground.

The Hill incident, coupled with the Simmons pick, threw domestic violence in the NFL firmly into focus once more.

Television networks covering the draft were far from transparent when discussing Simmons’s murky past, some merely calling it “an incident.” 

This is also a great failing. 

NFL media has a responsibility to all its fans to fully disclose these issues and those of a similar nature.

The NFL has struggled to deal properly with domestic violence issues ever since the league botched the handling of the Ray Rice incident in 2014 — video footage showed the former Baltimore Ravens running back punching his then fiancée and dragging her, unconscious, out of a lift.

The Super Bowl-winning back was given a six-game suspension from the league, but the Ravens cut him regardless.

Rice was effectively blacklisted from the league and has not played another down since. His incident came across as a watershed moment for the National Football League and a clear sign that they needed to get their ducks in a row when it came to clamping down on this disturbing problem.

However, just one year later the Dallas Cowboys gave defensive end Greg Hardy a one-year, $11.3 million deal just months after he was arrested for a series of sickening charges which included allegedly threatening to kill his girlfriend and allegedly dragging her across the bathroom floor. Hardy was suspended for 10 games, but had it reduced to four after appeal.

In more recent times, the Chiefs were again at the heart of a stomach-churning incident when now Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt was filmed kicking a woman on the floor in a Cleveland hotel. 

Just two months after his release the Browns snapped him up and he was later slapped with an unpaid eight-game suspension by the league for his actions.

The Browns put out the usual stock statements testifying to Hunt’s regret at the incident, that he was truly sorry and that he is keen to help educate those in the community about domestic violence.

The Cowboys did the same with Hardy.

As of right now the Chiefs still have Hill on their roster although they have been sheepish when giving out information as to where they stand with the fourth-year receiver.

Regardless of their decision, the Chiefs, and the NFL as a whole, has set a dangerous precedent in regard to the issues of domestic violence. 

Teams are sending the message that a player’s talent is the defining factor in them earning a roster spot, not their character.

If teams and the league do not fully condemn the actions by making sure their game is rid of all players found guilty of domestic violence, then on some level they are condoning it and no amount of statements can change that. 

While teams will preach through the media that they are committed to education, zero tolerance for such crimes and so on, their actions do the opposite. They legitimise them.

In the aftermath of the Hill incident, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with several media outlets and consistently said that the league would “wait and get the facts” and “not rush to judgement.” Ordinarily, this is fair. The judicial system dictates that all citizens are innocent until proven guilty and the NFL has fallen foul of casting a player as guilty without gathering all the facts. 

Last season, former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was accused of domestic violence. However, Foster was not charged and his then girlfriend even testified in court that she had made large parts of her story up.

But Hill’s is different. There looks to be irrefutable evidence that proves Hill to be guilty.

Goodell’s glacial movement — and in the Foster case snap judgement — on these issues should also be brought into question. The man standing atop the NFL landscape is failing to set the right tone with consistent mishandling of cases and unsatisfying punishments for those guilty further legitimising the offenders and giving teams an easy out when they come to sign the player in question.

Is a six-game suspension enough? Eight games? 10 games? Of course it is not, but the league bows down to its own policy and acts as though powerless to change a rule they put into practice.

Hardy, Hunt and Hill have all represented teams with large female fan bases, many children wore jerseys with their name on the back. When factoring all of that in, the tone becomes even more sinister. Is anybody clamouring to buy a Browns jersey with “Hunt” on the back of it after what he has done? 

How many “Hardy” jerseys were sold when he joined the Cowboys, even with full knowledge of his disgusting acts? 

To allow them to represent any team makes a mockery of members of the fan base and moves to alienate many.

NFL teams brand themselves as families. A community where everybody is welcome and made to feel safe. That image is tarnished when those guilty of domestic abuse are warmly welcomed back into the fold with a statement on social media the only consequence. 

But the more underlying consequences run much deeper and will continue to do so until the league practices what they preach.


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