I probably shouldn't write about this subject. It is the hot topic du jour and passionate opinions are raging on all sides. Hardly anyone is listening to the other side. Everyone seems to want to rush to judgement. Let's crucify some, behead others, castrate a few more, humiliate and fire the rest.
The subject in question is the recent domestic violence situation with NFL players, both spousal abuse and now child abuse. This has become the top story on every newscast, sportscast and social media site. Let's start out by saying this is terrible behavior in our society and needs to be fixed. Part of that fix is recognizing the problem and figuring out how to stop it. It appears that in the past week or so we have recognized the problem. Fixing it might take a little more effort.
My background is from a middle class white family. My dad never physically abused my Mom although verbal abuse was not off limits. He did spank me, but I don't think he ever drew blood or left deep bruises. No belts or switches were ever used. Again, verbal abuse was allowed. I did see plenty of physical abuse in other families. I saw wives and children that had been knocked around. I even saw a few nuns who beat up some classmates with fists and rulers.
I have no idea how Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson were raised and I bet you don't either. I don't know what was acceptable or normal in their families or neighborhood. This is not an excuse for their behavior, we hopefully improve from generation to generation. If guilty, and it looks like they are, both deserve to be punished either by the justice system and/or the NFL, their employer.
It seems pretty obvious now that the original two game suspension by the NFL for Ray Rice was too lenient. The Baltimore Ravens originally didn't level any discipline. Then the second elevator video hit (pun intended) the internet. The one which actually showed Rice hitting his fiance rather than the first which just showed him dragging her unconscious body into the hall. Then Rice was suspended indefinitely and fired by the Ravens. Do you really think it was the additional evidence that changed their minds on the punishment? Hell no, it was the public reaction to the video.
In the Adrian Peterson alleged child abuse case, the NFL and Vikings did nothing initially. In fact Adrian was scheduled to play after missing one game. Then, this story caught fire and more importantly, NFL and Minnesota sponsors began bailing or at least questioning the league and team response to the allegations. All of a sudden, Peterson is suspended.
None of these decisions or punishments by the teams or the league are for altruistic reasons. They are because of public outcry and pressure by sponsors. The league fears that they will lose fans or maybe worse for their bottom line, corporate sponsors. These sponsors are being disingenuous too. They didn't give a damn about all the bad behavior by NFL players until these cases went viral. The league has many convicted felons and thugs playing every week. Anheuser Busch is making statements about this situation and how they have great family values. Let's get this straight, they are a company that sells mass quantities of alcoholic beverages. They advertise on the NFL so they can sell even more alcoholic beverages. Ask anyone familiar with domestic abuse, either spousal or child, about one of the major triggers for it and they will tell you alcohol.
The NFL players union will be carefully pushing back on some of these penalties as they should be. There needs to be due process, the rule of law and adherence to contracts. The NFL and it's teams do not get to do whatever they want because of public opinion or sponsors public relations objectives.
Domestic abuse is a national, no worldwide, problem. Hopefully these latest examples will be the beginning of a cultural change. In the meantime, I don't think we should demonize Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, the teams or the NFL. They all made mistakes but were they any worse than the public apathy at large. For decades the police, medical field, schools, churches, families, ethnic groups, society and almost everybody else has swept this problem under the rug. Those few who are guilty at that moment the tide changed should not be crucified.
Domestic abuse is a societal, psychological and family problem. Why should we be surprised that large, strong, pampered, rich guys often from poor backgrounds would sometimes be violent? These people have been aggressive and violent all their life and they have been rewarded for it.
Let's all work on fixing the problem. Let's try to educate the children and modify the behavior of those who are already abusers. Let's get all of law enforcement to take domestic abuse cases for what they are, assault. Let's get the medical profession to document and report abuse cases. Let's all agree to report and/or intervene when we see abuse in our house, neighborhood or in public.
Let's also not go completely overboard. It's probably OK to pop an out of control kid on the butt with an open hand to get their attention on occasion. A little swat of a fully clothed kid won't hurt them, but it will get their attention. Likewise, if one member of a couple is out of control, defending yourself is not abuse.
I have little hope that we will approach this problem with any thought or moderation. In the immediate future we will overreact to every hint of domestic abuse and violence. Then in a few months we will either forget about this particular issue or there will be a backlash movement protesting the overly harsh treatment of abusers.
At this point, I don't know how culpable Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are. It looks bad, but it also doesn't look like either deserve the death penalty. Let's all take a deep breath. I seem to remember something about "innocent until proven guilty". Maybe more appropriate in this case would be "people in glass houses..." or "let he who is without sin..."
Comments always welcome but try to be civil.