Tom Sunderland
Domestic Violence in the NFL: Flawed

Domestic Violence in the NFL: Flawed

The National Football League has a long and colourful history with how it handles domestic violence against women, and Ezeikiel Elliott’s recent six-match suspension related to the matter has highlighted issues anew.

As things stand, the Dallas Cowboys running-back will be absent from the beginning of the 2017 campaign. Despite not being criminally charged for the accusations of abuse that stem back over a five-day period with an ex-girlfriend in July 2016, the NFL has taken its own course.

After conducting a one-year-long investigation, reviewing “police reports, witness statements, photographic evidence, texts” and more, the NFL determined a six-game ban was just.

This follows the case of former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice, the last high-profile case of domestic violence in the NFL, whose incrimination resulted in the “baseline” ban of six matches for first-time offenders.

Dallas Stars - Domestic Violence

The league is making strides in the right direction, at least, considering previous domestic violence cases surrounding players, namely the likes of former New York Giants kicker Josh Brown and ex-Cowboy Greg Hardy, were handled so badly in terms of punishment.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has courted some attention for getting these decisions wrong in the past, and people will use one example of what’s quite a tragic event, juxtaposing it against others in a bid to determine sentencing.

But the flaws in this system are two-fold. Not only is it that the National Football League has been accused of lacking transparency and consistency in punishments at times, but one has to question why the case of domestic abuse is so prevalent at all.


Look to other contact sports involving men of similar builds to those in American football. Rugby, for example, must have as much testosterone mixing through the veins of its players, men made up of as much muscle mass as those in the NFL, and yet one might struggle to find even a fraction of the controversy with regards to aggressive behaviour against women.

Not only that, but research has been undertaken to discuss such theories. In May of this year, the Chicago Tribune’s Stephen L. Carter wrote that the rate at which an NFL player is liable to commit domestic violence is lower than the average population.

However, he went on to add: “the same data tell us that the domestic violence rate among NFL players is much higher than for similarly compensated professionals in other fields.” This evidences the NFL as a poor example when compared to athletes in other sports.

The emphasis shouldn’t be on perfecting an incredibly flawed punishment system, but rather the NFL should be working to discover why it is their sport holds such a murky past—and present—when it comes to domestic abuse.

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