The American National Football League (NFL) is facing criticism on several fronts these days. The controversy over a racist team brand is bad enough. But the League’s record on dealing with physical abuse charges levelled against players is now adding to the notoriety of American football.
According to activist group Ultraviolet, who produced the 15-second shock ad above, 55 cases of partner abuse by players have not been properly addressed by the NFL.
A prominent example is the initial two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after he was seen in a security video violently assaulting Janay Palmer, his girlfriend. Mr. Rice was eventually allowed by the courts to enter a pre-trial diversionary program. However, when scandal site TMZ released an even more graphically brutal video of the assault, the Baltimore Ravens responded to widespread outrage by terminating the player’s contract, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him suspended him indefinitely from the league. This suspension, however, was overturned by a judge on appeal.
Nonetheless, Ultraviolet is calling for Roger Goodell’s resignation. They note particularly that, in the Rice case, he failed to request access to the video evidence of the assault before deciding the player’s initial punishment. (The indefinite suspension was overruled because he had already been punished once, despite there being new evidence.)
Back to the ad: AdFreak reports that it was submitted, and initially rejected, by Sports Illustrated’s website. However, the magazine has since reversed its call, and the ad is apparently going to appear on si.com today — three days before Super Bowl XLIX.
As social marketing ads go, it’s pretty basic (if affecting). Since it is intended to be seen by a male-dominated audience, it appears to be designed to provoke intense feelings of protectiveness. The “damsel in distress” approach ain’t exactly modern, but it is generating a ton of earned media.
As of today, the #GoodellMustGo hashtag is picking up on Twitter. It will be interesting to see what happens on Sunday.
If you’re wondering what became of Janay Palmer, the woman whose brutalization was viewed by millions online, she married Ray Rice the day after he was indicted. She now tells media that the assault was part of “God’s plan” and that she and Ray Rice were “chosen” to spread awareness to domestic violence. It is not uncommon for abused women to stay with their partners, and the reasons are complex.
Data analysis site fivethirtyeight.com notes that, the ration of NFL players are charged with assault is only 13% of the US average, however when a player is arrested, the charge is “domestic violence” in more than half of incidents. And when the players’ income levels are taken into account (wealthy people have much lower arrest rates for violent crimes), “If the NFL is capable of reducing any harm its players are causing — whether through harsher suspensions or other policies targeting behavior — it may have a legal (or at least moral) duty to do so.”
The No More PSA does not call for Roger Goodell’s resignation.