Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hooper: NFL can still take a stand against domestic violence

The logo of the National Football League, commonly — and sometimes reverently — referred to as "the shield," continues to get dented and dinged because of how Commissioner Roger Goodell chose to discipline Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

The video of Rice dragging the limp body of his then-fiancee — they have since married — off an elevator in an Atlantic City casino led to his indictment on a third-degree aggravated assault charge. Although he entered a pretrial diversion program and can have his record expunged if he completes the program, most thought the league would send a message with a penalty equal to or greater than the penalties it issues for other off-field infractions.

The NFL's decision to suspend Rice for only two games baffled those troubled by society's ongoing challenges of domestic violence. The leniency granted Rice sent a message that taking performance-enhancing drugs or missteps with abusive substances stand as greater offenses than subjecting a woman to the rage of violence.

At the least, Rice's actions merited an eight-game suspension (half the season). And the fine, which would have been between $1.5 million and $2 million, could have been donated to shelters in NFL cities, with Rice delivering the checks himself.

Sometimes symbolism matters.

Instead, the announcement came across as a slap on the wrist. The public's anger and disappointment remains palpable a week later not because the league condones domestic violence but because it could do more to curb it.

So what becomes of our anger? Do we allow it to evaporate in the heat of the moment, or do we channel it toward a more meaningful reaction?

Men perpetrate the vast majority of gender-based violence, so it comes as no surprise that both the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the Spring of Tampa Bay have campaigns aimed at engaging men to lead the way in ending the abuse.

The Crisis Center launched "Men Stopping Violence Against Women" in June. The Spring partnered with the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women in January to promote its "Man Up" initiative with a special event featuring Jackson Katz, a renowned expert on the issue.

In both cases, these agencies are imploring us to teach young boys that "becoming a man" doesn't involve activities that degrade or hurt girls or women. They're hoping to provide men with the tools they need to safely confront abusive peers and create peaceful communities for their daughters, wives, sisters, aunts and grandmothers.

Every individual bothered by the Rice decision can lend a hand.

But so too can institutions at the epicenter of male culture. The NFL missed the opportunity to help with these goals with its uneven treatment of the Rice case, sending the wrong message to its legion of fans — men and women.

But it's not too late for the league to boost these noble causes. And maybe our own Tampa Bay Buccaneers could set the tone for the league's other 31 franchises.

The Bucs' community efforts include initiatives for youth, highlighted by the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Mobile and the newer Buccaneers Academies effort designed to encourage students to stay on the right path. The military and cancer awareness also rank as high priorities. By no means are they invisible in their outreach, and the team has supported the Spring as well as St. Petersburg's Community Action Stops Abuse.

But through collaboration, the Bucs could help set a new tone with public service announcements and awareness campaigns. No single organization can be all things to all people, but maybe if the team simply gives these organizations the platform to deliver a positive message, it can help curb an issue that causes far too much suffering and death.

And the NFL could replicate the effort.

A shield can be used to deflect attacks, but it also can be used as a tool to help lead people into a battle worth fighting.

That's all I'm saying.

Hooper: NFL can still take a stand against domestic violence 07/30/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 12:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Taste of Tampa Bay: Pam's Roti Shop and Caribbean Market in St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining

    Pam Prasad, who is originally from Guyana, runs Pam's Roti Shop and Caribbean Market on 38th Avenue N in St. Petersburg with her two sons. Prasad loves to educate her customers about her food, customs and culture. The place is known for its variety of roti combinations, goat dishes and spices.

    Pam Prasad makes roti at Pam's Roti Shop at 2800 38th Ave N. in St. Petersburg. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  2. Tampa Pig Jig lineup: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Justin Moore, more


    This year's Tampa Pig Jig will have a little bit of country and a little bit of soul.

    Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
  3. March opening planned for renovated Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park


    TAMPA — Dirt, wood and concrete filling the 24-acre Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park will become lawns, athletic facilities and dog parks by March, city officials say.

    A view from the Laurel Street bridge observation deck of the River Center that's being built at the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park. Construction is underway for the renovation of the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. In Hillsborough, a social worker tasked with helping kids has troubles of her own


    CLEARWATER — As a social worker for Hillsborough County schools, Marissa Mitchell holds one of the system's most sensitive jobs, helping children navigate deeply personal family problems.

    Marissa Mitchell, recently released from Pinellas County Jail, is a social worker for the Hillsborough County public school system.
  5. Buccaneers defense was among NFL's best when its pressure got to the QB


    It doesn't matter how many times they've thrown a football. It doesn't matter how many seasons they've played. It doesn't matter whether they have a degree from Harvard or Central Florida.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded 6.5 sacks last season, but many of his other contributions didn't show up in the box scores. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]