October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. October also marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The National Football League has been at the forefront of publicizing the cause of breast cancer awareness.
NFL players don pink cleats, gloves, and helmets during the month of October. Players also wear pink ribbons. Many players like Carolina Panthers' player, DeAngelo Williams, have used their charitable foundations to support the cause for finding a cure for breast cancer.
However, the NFL has been absolutely silent as it pertains to domestic violence. Players do not wear purple cleats. There are no purple ribbons adorning uniforms. As many who work in advocacy for domestic violence awareness know...silence can be deadly.
Notably over the years, former and current NFL players have made headlines several times due to acts of domestic violence.
- 1999 Carolina Panthers player, Rae Carruth, hires a hitman to kill his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams.
- 2000 Carolina Panthers player, Fred Lane, murdered by wife Deidra.
- 2009 Steve McNair, killed by mistress in a murder-suicide.
- 2009 Chris Henry, killed in Charlotte after falling from a truck driven by his fiancee during a domestic dispute.
- 2012 Chad Johnson, arrested for head-butting wife, Evelyn Lozada.
- 2012 Larry Johnson, recently arrested in Las Vegas for choking an unnamed woman:
Larry Alphonso Johnson Jr., 32, was being held on $15,000 bail at the Clark County jail pending an initial court appearance on a domestic violence-strangulation charge that could get him a minimum of two years in state prison if he is convicted.
Johnson was arrested about 4:30 a.m. at the Bellagio resort, according to a police report that said Johnson and the woman had been drinking alcohol before the altercation, and that the woman had marks on her face and bruises on her neck.
Johnson, who lives in North Bay Village, Fla., had marks on his face that police attributed to the woman fighting him as he choked her.- WJLA
Surprisingly to some, NFL players are no more prone to acts of domestic violence, or violence in general, than the general public. A 1999 statistical study from Duke University shows that NFL players were less likely to commit criminal acts of violence than the general population.
Bethany Withers, in a 2010 paper published in Harvard’s Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law backed up the earlier Duke findings. Withers details a report from the San Diego Union-Tribune that shows that NFL players have similar minor troubles with the law in the same way the general population does: traffic tickets and drunken driving. Further, whereas the arrest rate for the general population is one in twenty-one, the rate for NFL players is one in forty-seven. (Source)
Even still, with such a high profile sport, having an advocate for Domestic Violence Awareness come from what many see as a violent sport would bring much needed attention to the cause. Although data shows otherwise, people still believe that athletes are more prone to violence than anyone else. People also believe that women are the only victims of domestic violence, which is not the case according to the video accompanying this article.
By partnering with domestic violence advocacy groups, the NFL has an awesome opportunity to change the way its athletes and its sport are viewed by the public. Too many headlines focus on the purported negatives of the NFL culture, yet not many shine a light on the positives.