EXCLUSIVE: Domestic Abuse, the Role and Impact of the NFL and Other Institutions

Sporting leagues are under intense public pressure to step up their policies and increase consequences for acts of domestic abuse. While domestic abuse isn’t new in any community, wide spread public intolerance of abuse has been ignited by recent cases involving a few star athletes.

Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back, was suspended for two games after being accused of assaulting his now wife, Janay Palmer. After public pressure that the punishment was insufficient, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell increased the league’s suspension policy for a first time domestic violence offense to six games. After the second infamous video surfaced of Rice knocking out Palmer, the Ravens released Rice and Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely.

The hearing on how Rice was disciplined took place this week before Judge Barbara Jones. This is the first time in NFL history that a disciplinary hearing was conducted pursuant to a joint agreement on a neutral arbitrator.

The NFL has also been on the hot seat for its handling of other recent domestic abuse cases including Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings,who pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault charges after whipping his 4-year-old son with a switch. Peterson was kept out one game and then reinstated before an outcry led to his being suspended indefinitely.

The NFLPA in a statement said, “Our union worked with the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian’s representatives on a mutual agreement pending the adjudication of his legal case. Now that his legal matter is resolved, we believe it is Adrian’s right to be treated in a manner that is consistent with similar cases under our collective bargaining agreement.” In other words, Peterson should be reinstated now. The NFLPA delivered that specific message in a letter to the league Friday.

In the U.S. Soccer league, goalie Hope Solo has been allowed to continue playing with her team despite her arrest several months ago in a domestic violence matter. Solo is awaiting trial on two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence for allegedly attacking her 17-year-old nephew and her sister in her sister’s home in June. In a recent interview Abby Wambach, a teammate of Solo, said, “It’s hard because we’re in a tricky position because we’re teammates with Hope and we also are role models so we know how massive and we know how big of an issue this is. The fact that this has taken off with the NFL, I understand it, because it is a huge, huge topic.”

NASCAR driver Kurt Busch has been accused of domestic assault by his ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, and police in Delaware said Friday they are investigating. The documents, filed in the matter, say Busch was despondent the night of Sept. 26 after his poor performance at the qualifying session. Driscoll said Busch called her names, grabbed her face and smashed her head three times against the wall next to the bed.

NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer said, “We recognize the seriousness of this matter and are actively gathering information from all parties, including law enforcement authorities and Stewart-Haas Racing. It would be inappropriate for NASCAR to comment further on this matter until we have more information.”

In this roundtable discussion on domestic violence, Melissa Mahler of Pro Player Insiders and Andrew Willis, Stop Abuse Campaign are joined by DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of NFL Players Association; Angela Rose, Executive Director of PAVE; Michael Lesher, author, advocate, lawyer; and Eileen King, Executive Director of Child Justice. The focus is on understanding the role and influence that institutions like the NFL have in preventing domestic abuse.

To start with we need to break the cycle of what we normally see when institutions react to issues like domestic violence. Smith says, “[The NFLPA is] taking steps to try and figure out how do we reach out to those who are potential victims and give them an avenue and a potential lifeline to first make sure these things don’t happen and if they are in a situation where abuse could happen, how to get help.”

More from our series on domestic abuse:

 A Former NFL Player Talks About How To Stop Domestic Violence Now 

A Victim’s Perspective, Why Does She Stay? 

More about our panel:

Angela Rose, Executive Director of PAVE - http://pavingtheway.net

As the founder of this nonprofit, Rose has cultivated PAVE into a national organization and continues to inspire others throughout the country and abroad to join the movement to end sexual violence. At the age of seventeen, Angela Rose was abducted at knifepoint while leaving her job at a shopping mall in the suburbs of Chicago. She was taken and then assaulted by a repeat sex offender on parole for murder. Angela was eventually let go by the perpetrator; still bruised and disoriented, Rose was then shocked at the treatment of her case by the authorities and the prevalence of victim blame. All of the anguish that existed during the abduction was immediately replaced by anger and a strong sense of vigilance.

DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director NFL Players Association - https://www.nflplayers.com

NFLPA, is the labor organization representing the players in the National Football League. In addition to conducting labor negotiations, the NFLPA represents and protects the rights of the players; the organization’s actions include filing grievances against player discipline that it deems too severe.  Smith was formerly an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia and was Counsel to then Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. Smith served as a Partner in firms of Latham & Watkins, LLP and Patton Boggs, LLP, in Washington, D.C. where he represented corporations, boards of directors and senior executives in civil and criminal matters.

Andrew Willis, CEO Founder of Stop Abuse Campaign http://stopabusecampaign.com

Stop Abuse Campaign is dedicated to the prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences through public education and public policy. They support evidence based practices that accomplish this, and thereby spare the next generation from needless suffering. Their priority is preventing abuse from starting. Andrew is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner violence and suicide. He’s a frequent speaker at conferences and blogs for the Stop Abuse Campaign.

Michael Lesher, Author, Advocate, Lawyer http://www.michaellesher.com

Co-author From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running from the Family Courts — and What Can Be Done about It (Northeastern, 2005).  Author of Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities (McFarland & Co., 2014), which deals with sex abuse cover-ups in Orthodox Jewish communities. He has performed legal work for pro se clients, and for other attorneys in many cases involving mothers who have lost custody of their children because of their efforts to protect the children from alleged sexual abuse.

Eileen King, Executive Director of Child Justice http://child-justice.org

Child Justice advocates for abused, neglected and at-risk children failed by systems that should protect them. They work with local, state and national advocates, legal and mental health professionals and experts within the broad spectrum of child abuse, neglect, interpersonal violence and trauma. Child Justice may seek pro bono counsel for lower or appellate court proceedings for protective parents in financial distress. They also provide public policy recommendations based on our first-hand knowledge of how courts and child protection systems respond – or fail to respond – to a vulnerable child’s urgent need for protection.

Melissa Mahler, Founder Editor-in-Chief Pro Player Insiders

For more on twitter follow @PlayerInsiders & @Melissa_PPI

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