Has domestic violence in the NFL changed people’s perceptions?

By Jared Brehm | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Domestic violence in the United States has become a hot topic with recent events in the NFL, and especially thanks to former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Rice was accused of knocking his fiancé unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator early this year, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell eventually decided to indefinitely suspend him after video surfaced from TMZ of Rice striking his fiancé.

Domestic violence is not something that is new in the U.S., even though the recent coverage of the Ray Rice makes it seem that way. According to the Center of Disease Control, “On average 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States.” That number is over 10 million men and women a year in the U.S. In the NFL, domestic violence is the fastest growing issue, according to statistics from the FiveThirtyEight.com.

So has the perception of the NFL changed because of Ray Rice and other incidents of domestic violence? Do fans of the game still watch Football and support the NFL the same way?

Brian Ferlin, who grew up in Jacksonville and now plays for the Boston Bruins in their minor league system in Providence, R.I., explained his perspective on domestic violence in the NFL and the Rice issue. “I felt domestic violence was completely unacceptable. However, until this situation happened, I never realized how devastating the potential punishment could be for anyone involved in such a dispute, let alone a high profile professional athlete,” Ferlin said.

Ferlin said that the NFL is handling the domestic violence situation correctly and high profile athletes like Rice have to be punished harshly in order to make the point clear that this is a huge offense. “It was important that the NFL treated him (Rice) with a harsh punishment, because domestic violence is not acceptable no matter who you are,” he said. “It is important for everyone to realize this is not an acceptable behavior and see the consequences taking place from these actions.”

Flagler College senior Danielle Shuman, 21, said she had never heard of domestic violence problems in the NFL before. “I knew the game was violent, but that issues stayed off the field,” she said.

Shuman feels that the NFL should have implemented a domestic violence policy before the Rice incident, and “that the NFL is only doing this to calm public perception and to save sponsorships.” The NFL has been reeling to slow public perception of their handling of the Rice issues and other problems. That said, Shuman said that she still watches football regularly. I view the NFL as a good organization and a few people cannot ruin the integrity of the whole NFL,” she said.

Others also agree with Shuman on how the NFL has handled the domestic violence. University of North Florida junior Max Burns, 20, said that the NFL has messed up handling the Rice issue and tarnished its image as well. “There’s more to life than a game and they (NFL) put their product over the safety of individuals,” Burns said. When asked whether his perception of the NFL has changed from the incident, Burns replied, “I still love Football, but the fact that the NFL tried to seemingly produce a cover up and got caught makes me wonder what other issues they may be hiding from the public.”

Flagler College junior Kathleen Bajalia, 22, said that domestic violence has always been an issue in the NFL and in society, but it is now coming to light after the Rice incident for more people to see. “Domestic violence has been an issue in not just the NFL, but in sports in general, and many of these players are viewed as people with little to no maturity,” she said. Bajalia explained the NFL has not really changed, but she does feel that the punishments need to be more severe and that the NFL and other sports need to get the players help before incidents like Rice’s occur again.

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