Hey, NFL, No More
Hollow PR Campaigns, OK?
With The 2014 Season Of The National Football League Already Destined To Go Down In History As The Year Of Domestic Violence, The NFL Wages A Public Relations Campaign That Merely Deflects Responsibility Once Again
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
Nov. 25, 2014 — Anyone who has watched a local NFL broadcast on Fox during the past several weeks has probably seen the new anti-domestic violence PSAs put out by the NFL.
On the surface, it seems like a good step forward for a league tarnished by the actions of several players who have physically abused women and children, but you should not be fooled. The commercial is actually nothing more than a poorly-executed public relations campaign that, once again, fails to hold players accountable for their actions.
The PSAs feature current and former players speaking out against domestic violence and sexual assault as part of the NFL’s adoption of the “No More” campaign. That, in itself, is not the problem. The league needs to publicly speak out on this issue since so many of its players seem to have a problem keeping their hands (and switches) off of vulnerable people.
And, the No More campaign is definitely well-intentioned and supported by a slew of multinational corporations and high-profile actors.
The problem is not with the message the NFL is trying to deliver. The problem is with the message the NFL is actually delivering.
Let’s take a look at a few of the statements made by players and former players in the PSAs.
“No more: why doesn’t she just leave him?”
“No more: she was asking for it?”
“No more: He said he was sorry.”
The sentiment continues in much the same fashion through the videos and former Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter summarizes it all nicely at the end of the first PSA, “No more bystanding.”
I don’t have a problem with the views expressed by these players in these PSAs. In fact, I support them wholeheartedly. When anyone witnesses an act of domestic violence against another person, they should say something. Call the police. Defend the person. Do anything to protect that victim, especially if it is a defenseless child or a person being sexually assaulted. There’s no excuse for remaining silent while someone else is attacked.
It’s a slight change from what the No More campaign had been before the NFL jumped on board after the Peterson, Rice and other allegations. As Troy Vincent, former player and current NFL executive said in an exclusive interview with No More, “We want to raise the national dialogue on this issue. It is something in which we all can share. We need to send the message that we are not bystanders. It was Edmund Burke who said in the 1700’s that ‘all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ It is time for all men to stand and be held accountable on this issue.”
Every single line in each PSA — and Vincent’s statement reinforces it— indicates that the responsibility for ending domestic violence and/or sexual assault is either the responsibility of the victim or witnesses. Not once in three PSAs does one of the speakers call out the perpetrators of these acts and tell them “No more.”
And, that absence completely distorts the message of the entire campaign. Rather than a step in the right direction, it is just more of the same. The NFL is once again trying to appear like its dealing with a serious problem, while actually sweeping it under the rug. Rather than call out its players for their actions, the NFL is blaming those who surround these violent crimes: victims, family members and friends.
It’s not Adrian Peterson’s fault he beat his child in the testicles with a wooden branch. It’s family and friends fault for not reporting it.
It’s not Ray Rice’s fault he hit his fiancee. It’s her fault for staying with him.
This is the de facto message the NFL is communicating with its PSAs.
I understand the NFL took an unusually strong stance against both players, giving them unparalleled suspensions for their violent acts. But, that is only the beginning of the solution. Peterson and Rice are not isolated cases. The 49ers’ Ray McDonald and the Panther’s Greg Hardy also had domestic violence issues this season. The NFL has a endemic domestic violence problem.
So, while suspending Rice and Peterson seems like a good fix, it is only treating symptoms of a larger problem. At the same time that the league is handing down those suspensions, the NFL runs these PSAs that figuratively absolves the players of wrongdoing.
By doing so, the NFL is sending a dangerous mixed-message. It’s doling out punishment while domestic violence is in the spotlight, but perpetuating the very culture that allowed that domestic violence to proliferate in the first place.
I do not think it was the intention of the players in the ad to deliver this mixed message. Carter, for one, became visibly emotional on air as he chastised Peterson and recounted his own history as a child-abuse victim. The players, I think, genuinely wanted to deliver a message deriding violence against spouses, girlfriends and/or children.
The NFL, on the other hand, is playing a much more calculated game. It’s trying to punish players on the one hand, while promoting them to fans on the other. It can’t very well call a monster and then ask you buy his jersey next year when the suspension is lifted. So, the league suspends him for a few games and places all blame for his wrongdoing covertly on others.
Fans are accountable, too, because we’re the dopes who fall for this. We feign ignorance or outrage at the player but continue to buy tickets and jerseys and watch games to contribute to the ever-growing NFL ecosystem.
That’s the sort of reprehensible co-dependent behavior that allows domestic violence cultures to fester, and I for one say “No more.”
Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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