Domestic Violence and the Draft: the NFL’s Problem with Keeping the Hits on the Field

The NFL stands for many different things to different people. With the way our nation’s most popular sport in heading, however, the most justifiable meaning of it should be ‘Not For Ladies.’

Because let’s be honest, when it comes to respect of women, the NFL’s stance is almost nonexistent. The most obvious indicator of this?

Well, take a look at the draft.

Year after year, we see players with such high potential and sheer athleticism coming out of college, with teams drooling over what they can bring to a professional team. But what seems to be overlooked are the dozens of cases each year in which a potential first or second round pick drops down draft boards because of off-the-field issues. These “issues” have a name, and that name is domestic violence.

Football players are humans, with flaws just like the rest of us. It’s tough to not put million dollar athletes on a pedestal when they are always in the limelight and seem perfect, but that’s rarely the case.

“What concerns me is when I see something like (the Ray Rice elevator video), and kids see that and make the connection that ‘a role model did this, so it must be okay,’” says Rachel David, a gender and women’s studies instructor who has taught at Shoreline for 18 years. “On top of that, there’s the cultural reaction to this. They hear people blaming the women, they hear excusing of his behavior.”

We’ve seen it so many times before and the country is slowly becoming numb to it, that is a dangerous thing.

David brings an interesting point of view to the mental side of DV cases.

“When you grow up playing football, you’re taught that when you experience pain, you swallow it and tough it out, no matter how hard it hurts. … And if you’re not able to sympathize with your own pain over the years, then you won’t be able to see others’,” David offers.

“And on the field, they’re taught to hurt others, without thinking about the outcome. That pulls into their personal life, where violence and aggression might become normalized.”

We cannot keep letting the Ray McDonalds, the Greg Hardys and the Frank Clarks of the NFL become role models for the millions of wide-eyed, malleable young kids who are watching.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at just this year’s draft class.

Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon, a gifted athlete predicted to be a top-10 pick, fell to the second round before hearing the Cincinnati Bengals call his name. From the thunder of boos pouring out of the crowd on Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Parkway, one could assume that those fans had seen the viral video of Mixon breaking four bones in a young woman’s face in 2014.

The 2016 Heisman trophy finalist Dede Westbrook, also out of OU, fell to Jacksonville in the fourth. Was this because of injury concerns? Production concerns? Maturity concerns? No, not really.

He just got arrested twice before even being recruited to a university. Once for throwing the mother of his two children to the ground during an argument, and again for punching the same woman as well as biting her arm.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are potential Rookie of the Year candidates, coming primetime to a television near you. And not only will they star in the NFL because they are such talented football players, but the brighter their star shines, the less light will be shed on their dark pasts. ‘Tis the way of the world in today’s NFL.

-Vaughn Drewien