The NFL is no longer immune from the laws and expectations of proper behavior that common folk abide by each and every day. High profile cases like the Ray Rice domestic violence case or Adrian Peterson's attempt at disciplining his four year old son, serve the greater purpose of holding professional athletes more accountable to the laws of the land.
The NFL has known of problems involving domestic violence and abuse, but has appeared to fight harder to keep its athletes out of the public eye than to work on solutions to solve the bigger problems at hand. Nobody is asking NFL players to wear flags, but the league that has taken great strides towards eliminating concussions and unnecessary violence on the field has suffered from its inability to police its players off the field. This is drawing more and more criticism from many of its fans.
Public sentiment has been the driving force, helping to make many questionable decisions made by the NFL leaders more right. However, solutions to many of the league's problems are not so easily found. The fallout from many of the recent suspensions has already helped the league move forward by evaluating its many rules and consequences for breaking them. There are more positives that can come from the recent examples of poor behaviors that have plagued the league, but here are ten positives that can come from these very negative events.
10 Women Watch Football Too!
Women currently represent about 45% of the NFL's estimated 150 million fans and the NFL brass is starting to understand their importance. More women than ever before can be seen wearing jerseys at the office, understanding that first downs help extend drives, and feeling the pain of a loss in a tightly contested game. A sport that once was considered too violent for women to ever watch has surprisingly attracted more women as time goes on.
The show, "Sunday Night Football," topped the Nielsen rankings for women viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 for the first time last year. According to Fox, the female viewing audience hit a record high last season. Despite all the negative publicity from the domestic violence issues that have engulfed the league, the importance of doing more to attract and placate female fans has clearly become more of an emphasis for the league. This rapidly developing fan base can only benefit the league.
If they can continue to punish those who domestically abuse their partners, this number will only increase.
9 Bad Behavior Costs The Average Joe, Now NFL Players Too!
It has always seemed like professional athletes have been above the law. There have been many high profile criminal cases through the years that have left the public wondering if leniency was and is being given to talented players like Lawrence Taylor, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice (initially), and currently the 49ers Ray McDonald as well. For some reason the culture of the NFL is starting to change. Fines have been getting stiffer and consequences more costly. More is starting to become expected from NFL players that the league wants to properly represent their brand.
Consider the lack of consequences in the Jameis Winston NCAA case. Whether its the bungled sexual assault charges, a whoops I stole crab legs by accident occurrence, the free refills of soda at Burger King or yelling obscenities in a public place incident, Winston's behavior wouldn't pass in the NFL. The good news is that the public is starting to understand that it needs to expect more from the well-paid professionals that it helps support.
8 Sponsors Help Reinforce Public Opinion
The NFL has always enjoyed a little more autonomy from the public out of respect for the violent nature of the sport. Consider hockey where assault is basically part of every game, whether it is by fist or stick. It seems like there has always been a little tendency to give these professional athletes a longer leash because of the violent nature of the sport. Now things have changed and a powerful voice has started to make its presence know.
Sponsors who pay millions of dollars to be aligned with the league, now play a major role in helping to police the game. These public companies all know that the public pays their bills and they are teaching the NFL that they need to be weary of this fact too. The NFL has never really had to worry about fallout from the public until now. The league that has endured and has faced very little competition, now has to placate sponsors who can align themselves quickly when the voice of public opinion dictates that they do so.
7 No Star Treatment Will Be Tolerated
The Ray Rice story was going to be an abbreviated chapter in the NFL's character book. The league was about to sweep the incident under the carpet with a nifty two game suspension to Ray Rice, who previously had a life full of doing very little wrong. Lawrence Taylor was said to have used drugs since his start in the league in 1981, but despite his acknowledged cheating on drug tests and a second offense, Taylor was once suspended for only 30 days. Many people thought Ray Lewis got away with murder while he worked on becoming one of the greatest to ever play the game, and there have been other cases where big stars have emerged relatively unscathed.
The league learned that most of the public did not feel too sorry for Ray Rice. Although the league was ready to give Ray Rice the star treatment, the large contingent of the league's blue collar fan base was unwilling to let this inconsistent punishment go. The public has started to understand who pays the bills and has forced the NFL to review its list of punishments to make it harder for any team or the commissioner to pardon any crimes.
6 Our Society is Becoming More Colorblind
In a strange way the Ray Rice case has made a positive impact on our society. To begin with, Ray Rice (a black athlete), received the white glove treatment from the leader of the white group of owners in the NFL. Coming out with the light two game suspension was something that usually only a white quarterback might get. That, however, was nothing compared to the amount of support for Janay Rice.
According to Raven's owner, Steve Bisciotti, the incident was "embarrassing for him (Ray Rice) and his finace!" To get knocked out and dragged out of an elevator was deemed "embarrassing?" Janay represents a segment of our society that has experienced the most amount of neglect, the black woman. There has been such an incredible outpouring of support for Janay Rice, the victim, following this incident. The public refused to let this case be a "black thing" or have any person label this abuse in any other way. Domestic violence is a colorless societal problem and the public refused to let many in society, including a surprising amount of black men, label Janay Rice as the instigator.
5 More Light Shed on the Vicious Cycle of Child Abuse
The Adrian Peterson child abuse case is yet another incident involving a high-profile NFL star that has captured the public's attention. In this case, there is a respected NFL star who has battled back admirably from a grisly injury to become just as good as, or better than, before. Peterson is not running away from the accusations and is pleading his innocence to society's charges. Despite the rather horrific details surrounding his case, there is something about his case that has been a topic of many conversations.
According to Adrian Peterson's attorney, he "used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas." In other words, Peterson likely knew no better and was just hoping his upbringing that set him straight, had to be the right way to set his son straight. Punishment for crimes in Texas is known to be severe and Peterson's form of discipline might not even make it on the list of the most extreme cases. How can our society combat child abuse when there are enough people out there who still don't know what constitutes abuse? This case might go a long way towards at the very least combating any regionally acceptable forms of abuse.
4 Marijuana is The Lesser of Many Evils
Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns was sitting on the sidelines pondering his year long future without football when the Ray Rice case came to light. A two game suspension for Ray Rice made it less of a crime to inflict violence on another person than to chill out by using marijuana to escape the violence in a gladiator sport. Something had to be wrong with this inequity in suspensions. Thanks in large part to the severity of Gordon's suspension, the public outcry for decriminalizing marijuana has gained even more support.
Painkiller abuse has long plagued the NFL, leading to many psychological issues off the field. Beer and booze brands that promote the sport only contribute to its usage among its players. Marijuana use, it seems, has always been viewed as the step towards any other form of rampant drug abuse. Legalized in cities like Denver and Seattle, many experts now offer the argument about how marijuana might actually help NFL players get over concussions, painful injuries or even difficult days at work. Gordon's suspension has been reduced to 10 games and the public's changing attitude towards marijuana is starting to be understood.
3 Video Replay is Not Just For the Action on The Field
He said, she said, no longer has to be the major component of domestic abuse cases. In addition to security cameras and cell phone cameras that have been used to record many instances of this form of violence, there are now LED cameras that can used to capture signs of abuse before they are visible as bruises on the victim's skin. Abuse is hard enough for prosecutors to prove, but with the help of more and more technology, there is starting to be more evidence to break through the code of silence that many victims go through.
The acts of Richie Incognito in a rampage while drinking at a bar or Riley Cooper exclaiming that he could beat up any of the limited number of African American attendees at a Kenny Chesney concert, both were caught on video. The NFL more than likely had the Ray Rice elevator video, where he threw the punch, and mistakenly thought the public would not be able to come up with its own source. Video is meant to be used to capture moments and it should come as no surprise to have so many shocking events caught on video.
2 The Ray Rice Incident Sheds Light on the Victim's Struggle with Domestic Abuse
The way the Ray Rice case unfolded went a long way towards teaching us a thing or two about the victim's response to incidences of domestic abuse. Once the first Ray Rice video was released, Janay Rice joined Ray's adoring public who rushed to stand by his side. Janay went as far as saying that the incident was partly her fault. She said all the right things while standing by her husband's side. She was not sure how she lost consciousness and must have hit her head and Ray was not entirely to blame. Ray was cast as the perfect gentleman and she played the part of the dutiful wife.
The victims of domestic violence can so easily forgive and thus the repetition of violence usually becomes even more commonplace. Like cancer that is not attended to right away, the abuse more often gets worse and both party's denial simply makes it easier to happen again. The struggle of the victim was never more evident than the moment the second elevator Rice video came out showing the severity of the abuse. Janay fought to protect her partner, his name and his job that pays all the bills. As is the case with most victims of abuse, her own well being was not part of her fight or cause.
1 The NFL Has to Focus More on Off-Field Violence Than On-Field Violence
The NFL has made a point out of reducing the levels of violence on the field of play, doling out suspensions for using the crown of a helmet, hitting the quarterback after the whistle or even diving at a players knees during the course of play. Once legal plays have instead drawn flags, fines and suspensions as well as the ire of many less concerned die-hard fans. While the violence on the field has become a focus of the league's attention, the cases off the field have drawn a greater share of the public's attention.
According to statistics provided by Benjamin Morris of the website FiveThiryEight, NFL domestic violence arrest rates are four times worse than NFL arrest rates for all other offenses combined. Go figure, the sport that encourages men to be violent at all costs also makes it easier for men to be violent off the field? It is hard to understand how this connection could ever get lost. There is something wrong when Rice's original suspension for hitting his wife was less than Wes Welker's original suspension for using a banned substance that can only really harm his own health.