The past few weeks have seen the unfolding of yet another National Football League scandal concerning domestic violence. Since this past summer, allegations of spousal abuse have surfaced surrounding Josh Brown, kicker for the New York Giants. This issue had seemingly disappeared into the abyss of mainstream media, lost in news headlines of week one predictions and the climactic end to the baseball season.
The team kept Brown on the roster with full pay after the NFL suspended him for one game. Brown admitted to the abuse “in the past,” but the team did not feel that any further action needed to be taken, according to Giants co-owner John Mara. The team knew about the abuse before the suspension and even before they signed him to a $4 million contract back in April.
The NFL reopened the case due to the release of new evidence: 165 pages of handwritten artifacts confessing his abuse. “I viewed myself as God basically and she was my slave,” Brown wrote. The team and the league claim that they were unaware of this disturbing content at the time. He did not travel with the team to London for the Oct. 23 game against the St. Louis Rams.
Two days later, the Giants released Josh Brown with the statement, “Our beliefs, our judgments and our decisions were misguided. We accept that responsibility.” This decision came after the team received harsh criticism for their actions, especially in the wake of the NFL policy regarding domestic abuse.
In 2014, the league signed into effect a personal conduct policy with a “baseline suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, battery, domestic violence [and more].” Josh Brown was not given that same suspension because of an exception to the policy, calling on “mitigating or aggravating circumstances” as justification. Although well intentioned, this system has been used sporadically and inconsistently, much to the dismay of many fans.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has come under a lot of fire for his decisions, especially those surrounding punishment and suspension of players. Goodell stood his ground when his actions involving Brown were questioned. He said that the NFL as a whole “has made tremendous progress.”
He’s not wrong. There have been many instances where players have begun to speak out against domestic violence. The NO MORE campaign has run multiple public service announcements concerning the issue, showing the partnership of current football players as well as celebrities.
The motto of the NO MORE campaign is “together we can end domestic violence & sexual assault.” This is certainly a step in the right direction, yet it has been taken on by individuals and not the NFL as a league. That is what is the most concerning.
The NFL policy regarding domestic abuse is flawed, regardless of whether or not Goodell will admit to it. Brown’s case is sadly not unique. There always seems to be a domestic abuse scandal bubbling in American football, whether it involves established players, such as former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice, or new stars, including Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys running back whose case is currently being reviewed by the NFL.
Football is an aggressive sport—there is no rebuttal to that; but that does not mean that kind of behavior is acceptable off the field. There is no excuse to delay more preventative measures. The NFL needs to step up its game.