IMPACT
10/03/2014 04:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

NFL Makes Vague Pledge To Support Domestic Violence Groups

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In its continued efforts to crack down on domestic violence, the NFL has pledged to give "multiple millions" over the next five years to two groups that support victims of such abuse, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported.

In the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, in which a disturbing video was leaked of the Baltimore Ravens running back punching his then-fiancee -- the NFL formed an advisory board to develop more effective domestic abuse policies and programs, the Associated Press reported last month. To that end, the NFL told the Chronicle on Thursday it plans on giving several millions of dollars to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, but wouldn’t specify exact allocations.

"We’re not releasing the financial terms at this time, but I can tell you that each commitment will be multiple millions of dollars over five years," Anna Isaacson, NFL vice president of social responsibility, told the news outlet. "We are really listening and reaching out to as many people as we can to understand the issues and to really move the conversation forward into action."

Isaacson, who formerly served as the NFL’s vice president of community affairs and philanthropy, said the league chose those two groups in particular because it became clear in the unfolding of the scandal that they are concernedly understaffed and underfunded.

In the two days after the incriminating video was released, the National Domestic Violence Hotline saw an 84 percent increase in phone calls.

But the already-strapped organization did not have the bandwidth to respond to the spike.

"We had an outpouring of women saying, 'Oh my god, I didn't realize this happened to other people,'" Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the hotline, told The Huffington Post last month. "They thought they were living a life that was very unique to them."

Isaacson’s announcement comes on the heels of the NFL having come under heavy scrutiny for its handling of the Rice case.

The embattled athlete was at first suspended for two games, a decision NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell initially defended and then backtracked on more than a month later. Rice was ultimately released from the Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the league, but only after the video surfaced.

Women’s advocates were outraged by what they considered a tepid response to the scandal and the National Organization for Women (NOW), one of the country’s largest feminist groups, called for Goodell's resignation.

Activists and sportscasters alike also urged the NFL to reconsider its standard advocacy approach to women's issues.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which falls out in October and coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, players typically wear pink gear throughout the month to raise awareness and the NFL sells items in support of the American Cancer Society.

The NFL has long come under fire for its paltry donations, though. According to a 2012 Business Insider report, it only donated 5 percent of sales to charity.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence launched a petition calling for teams to instead wear purple to support domestic violence awareness efforts.

"As the [breast cancer] campaign enters its sixth year, it's hard to imagine anything will look more tone deaf than the NFL trumpeting its commitment to the health of women amid a horrifying spate of domestic violence stories," Adam Chandler wrote in the Wire.

While advocates say they appreciate some of the NFL’s gestures to improve its approach to domestic violence issues, many are dissatisfied.

After the NFL announced its new advisory board, which includes three domestic violence experts, NOW decried the fact that Goodell also appointed Isaacson, a current member of his leadership. The organization also emphasized the need to appoint an independent investigator to address every aspect of the issue within the NFL.

"[The advisory counsel] is a step in the right direction -- but it’s not enough," the group said in a statement. "Here’s how you can tell if an organization is truly committed to difficult, systemic change. Are they willing to demonstrate that they understand the seriousness of the problem they created by holding their existing leadership accountable? And would the changes they are making have happened in the absence of a public relations crisis?"

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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