The National Football League (NFL) is embroiled in a fight over what they knew and when they knew it relating to Ray Rice beating up his then-fiancée, now wife. It has to be hoped that the decision to keep or fire Commissioner Roger Goodell over this if he lied about when he first saw the video of the incident is kept separate from the issue of violence against women and the stand that all people should take against it.
It is unacceptable under any circumstances. The rich owners of the NFL teams and the NFL itself can do more than make statements. They can actually fund programs and hotlines for women who find themselves in these situations. Firing Ray Rice is fine but the violent incident against his wife is only the tip of the iceberg of what is happening to women across the spectrum without regard to race or economic status.
I propose if the NFL and the team owners are serious about this issue, they put their money where their mouths are. If the Ravens fire Rice, who gets the money he would have earned? Does it go back into the owner's pocket? Why not develop a program which would have every team owner donate $10 million to women's shelters in the cities in which they play? They would also start or fund existing hotlines for women if they find themselves in an abusive situation. This would be a good start to making a difference.
Twenty years ago the Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, which, after a long debate, was reauthorized this year. There should have never been a debate. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the act, the White House released a proclamation that read:
"The Violence Against Women Act created a vital network of services for victims. It expanded the number of shelters and rape crisis centers across America and established a national hotline. The law improved our criminal justice system and provided specialized training to law enforcement, helping them better understand the unique challenges victims face. It spurred new State laws and protections and changed the way people think about domestic abuse; today, more women are empowered to speak out, and more girls grow up aware of their right to be free from abuse."
Despite this glowing commentary, we know that many women still face abuse and are often still afraid to speak out for many reasons. If they do speak out, they don't have the counseling they need or a place to go to for protection. There aren't enough shelters for them and often the children who come with them if they actually leave their significant other or spouse. This is where the NFL can start to make a real difference if they are serious about this issue. While the initial impact may first be felt in the 32 cities in which NFL teams are located, it is a start. It could embolden other sports leagues and hopefully businesses to do something about this issue before it impacts them in such a public way.
There are so many issues facing our society today that need attention. They include illiteracy, hunger and homelessness, to name just three. These are things we can do something about. Just think about how much money was raised by the ALS Society with the "ice bucket challenge" in a short time. There is so much money out there that people are willing to donate if we just bring their attention to the issues that confront their neighbors. Domestic violence of all kinds, and particularly violence against women, often occurs right under our noses to people next door and we don't know about it.
Let's use the Ray Rice example as one that will really make a difference to thousands of women rather than just have a debate over whether someone will turn in a Ray Rice jersey for one with another number on it. Let's use this horrendous example to educate our children in school health programs, both boys and girls, about this issue. We must teach our sons that violence against a woman is always wrong; and our daughters that you need not suffer in silence and you must respect yourself enough to never accept or make excuses for this kind of behavior against you.