Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has asked for a Pentagon review of the military’s involvement in the National Football League. The review comes in the wake of several domestic violence complaints against NFL players.
The connection between the NFL and the military goes back decades, and the connections are considerable.
The Army alone spends some $10 million a year buying advertising from television networks broadcasting NFL games. Games are also broadcast by the Armed Forces Network to troops deployed overseas.
Military support for the NFL games includes: providing ceremonial units at games for colors ceremonies; military personnel singing the national anthem, and other units providing drill teams or flyovers. Military personnel, including wounded warriors, often appear at NFL events honoring those who serve.
The Army and the NFL also have a agreement to share information and resources to better understand traumatic brain injury, which is a major medical issue both for wounded troops and football players. They are working together on awareness of TBI as well as research into treatment. The military has been sharing some of the lessons learned on TBI from the last 13 years of war, specifically.
Another program, NFL Play 60, has seen players visit military bases to encourage children to be more active as least 60 minutes a day to help prevent childhood obesity.
It is clear the White House is also closely monitoring the NFL controversy, with one senior administration official calling recent abuse allegations “deeply troubling” and stressing the league’s obligation to “(get) control of the situation.”
“Many of these professional athletes are marketed as role models to young people,” the official said. “So their behavior does have the potential to influence these young people. So that’s one of the many reasons it’s important the league gets a handle on this and have zero tolerance.”
Just how is the NFL supposed to “get control” of the domestic violence committed by their players? There are more than 1300 NFL players on 30 rosters across the league. Six players have been accused of domestic violence in recent months. While that is six too many, the question has to be asked: is domestic violence in the NFL so serious and so widespresd that it must become a federal issue?
No doubt women’s advocates would love to make it one. Already several big money advertisers like Anheuser-Busch and Nike are looking closely at their relationship with the NFL. A pullout by those two giants would hit the league where it hurts the most: advertising dollars.
There are legitimate questions about how the league has handled specific cases — most notably, the Ray Rice clocking of his girlfriend in an elevator. But how can you blame anyone, especially Commissioner Roger Goodell, for the actions of players off the football field? The only way this campaign against the NFL makes sense is if you consider the enormous amount of money at stake, and the high-profile nature of the crimes, which aids women’s groups in fundraising and marketing.
Out the window is “innocent until proven guilty.” While the Ray Rice video makes that a cut-and-dried case, and Adrian Peterson’s own words about how he used a stick on his son make that an open-and-shut case of child abuse, what of the others? And why no focus on the domestic violence complaint against international woman soccer star and American heartthrob Hope Solo and the US Soccer Federation allowing her to continue to play?
Solo, much like NFL players Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer, is facing charges stemming from a domestic dispute. But unlike her football counterparts, Solo has been allowed to play for the national team — and participated in the entire season for the Seattle Reign F.C. of the National Women’s Soccer League — while awaiting trial.
All three NFL stars won’t be suiting up any time soon. Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the league earlier this month after a video surfaced of him punching his then-fiancée in the face. Hardy was placed on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list as he appeals a domestic violence conviction from earlier this year. And Dwyer was placed on the non-football injury/illness list after he was arrested for domestic assault earlier this week.
Solo, a University of Washington alumna and wife of former Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens, is accused of allegedly punching her half-sister and 17-year-old nephew during a “drunken assault” in Kirkland in June, leading to charges on two counts of fourth-degree assault. While Solo apologized via Facebook for her actions, she also sought to have the charges against her dismissed, insisting that she was a victim in the situation. Her next court date is set for Nov. 4.
Domestic violence, no matter where it occurs and who commits the crime, is not a federal issue. It is being made a matter for Washington because those who would profit by churning the waters and keeping the issue plastered all over the newspapers and cable nets — including broadcasters, advocates, lawyers, and feminists — want to nationalize a local concern. The NFL is terrified because they are being threatened by the usual bullies who promote their causes and organizations by attacking those with the deepest pockets and the highest profiles.
The league’s efforts to make the issue of domestic violence into a PR matter were misplaced. But so are attacks on the NFL for supposedly encouraging domestic violence and hinting that NFL players are mostly thugs and wife beaters. The league has problems with more than its share of lawbreakers and entitled athletes who think the law is for little people. But the overwhelming majority of NFL players are good citizens, giving tens of thousands of hours back to the community in service and charitable work.
Doesn’t that count for anything?