Wai Sallas is thankful that this year’s Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice cases finally forced a broader national discourse – and the NFL to get tough – on crimes of domestic violence and child abuse
The NFL’s suspension of Adrian Peterson made it clear the league is no longer an organization protecting The Shield. They are now – finally – taking steps towards protecting those who for so long felt unprotected from the shield. The ironic part, is that we have the abuse cases of two high-profile stars, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson to thank for this.
I never would consider myself as a victim of child abuse. Much like Adrian Peterson, I had my own discipline hearings. My father usually held mine, and the sentencing was doled out at the end of his belt. They were short, painful and delivered a powerful message.
Thanks to Adrian Peterson, for probably the first time in my life, there is a public discourse about child discipline and corporal punishment.
Charles Barkley tried and failed to categorize child discipline and corporal punishment as a cultural phenomenon. Yet, as a study led by University of North Carolina researchers found, more than 80% of preschool children are disciplined through corporal punishment. In a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics labeled Guidance for Effective Discipline:
“The more children are spanked, the more anger they report as adults, the more likely they are to spank their own children, the more likely they are to approve of hitting a spouse, and the more marital conflict they experience as adults.”
It’s a cycle the NFL is currently caught in the middle of.
Before there was Adrian Peterson, there was Ray Rice.
We all know the story by now. Rice was arrested for domestic violence after a video showing him pulling his unconscious then-fiancée out of an elevator was released. In July, he received a 2-game suspension from the NFL. Months later, when a second video was released showing the actual violence, the NFL was caught in a storm it may take decades to get out from underneath.
What the Ray Rice situation did was shine a light on a pattern of domestic violence that for decades had been shielded by the NFL and its teams.
In the 21st century, there have been 769 arrests of NFL players, 89 were related to domestic abuse, according to USA Today. The NFL or the team disciplined its player only 30 of those 89 times. Of those 30 who were disciplined, rarely was that player a “star”.
Michael Pittman gained over 1,100 yards from scrimmage in 2001. He was also arrested twice for domestic violence, two weeks apart. Pittman was suspended one game for the first offense. In 2002, Pittman was the leading rusher for the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2003, Pittman was arrested for his third domestic violence charge in three years. He would go on to gain over 1300 yards that year. The NFL suspended him the following year for…three games.
Pittman is currently on trial for domestic violence once again. A Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office complaint filed in July at a California courthouse charges Pittman with “corporal injury to spouse/cohabitant/child’s parent.” The Complaint said the alleged crime occurred June 9, 2011, when Pittman “did willfully and unlawfully inflict corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon” his wife.
Seven of the 30 NFL players disciplined have been cut. The Minnesota Vikings cut AJ Jefferson last November. Jefferson had 5 tackles and had played in 10 games. The Broncos cut Kevin Alexander in 2010, resigned him a day later, he has three career tackles. Five other players met the same fate. Each of those players who were released rarely saw the field. The other 23 were all players who received significant playing time and were either suspended 1-2 games or not disciplined at all.
You’d think the NFL would have learned with OJ Simpson.
You’d think the NFL would have gotten stricter after Rae Carruth.
You’d think the NFL would change its policies after Jovan Belcher.
Google each of those names and you’ll see instances of the NFL protecting the shield and the players who wore “The Letters,” while disregarding the women and children left in their wake.
Simpson was found innocent of double murder. Carruth was found guilty of conspiring to murder a woman who was pregnant with his child. Belcher killed his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself.
It took video and public outrage for the NFL to finally understand the impact of domestic violence. If not for that video, who knows if the NFL would have ever learned.
Since Ray Rice, Jonathan Dwyer has been cut after being arrested for domestic violence. Since Ray Rice, Greg Hardy has been put on the commissioner’s exempt list and will miss the entire season after starting in Week 1.
The system is not perfect however. Ray McDonald was arrested for domestic violence against his pregnant fiancée. The 49er suited up every week until the case was recently dropped by the district attorney’s office based on insufficient evidence.
Would any of these players have been disciplined had it not been for Ray Rice?
What Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson did was deplorable and disgusting. It’s clear the NFL plans on using both players as an example for its newfound moral fiber.
At home, my wife and I have already detailed the ways to handle discipline in a more constructive and productive manner.
The American Academy of Pediatrics makes it clear that corporal punishment is a way of the past, and has no room for our world today:
“Spanking is no more effective as a long-term strategy than other approaches, and reliance on spanking as a discipline approach makes other discipline strategies less effective to use. Time-out and positive reinforcement of other behaviors are more difficult to implement and take longer to become effective when spanking has previously been a primary method of discipline.”
Most of my friends were disciplined this way. Ask most of those close to me whether or not they would apply the same form of discipline to their children, and the majority would say no.
Corporal Punishment is our past. It does not have to be our future. Over 3 million children annually are victims of child abuse. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
Finally, the NFL has decided to stop being tolerant of it. Unfortunately, it took two (more) horrible acts to get us to that place.
(Photo Credit: Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press)
For more of the Good Men Project‘s coverage of the NFL domestic violence and child abuse stories, see:
- Love Is Not a Defense For Abuse (November 5, 2014)
- Adrian Peterson Avoids Jail Time…And We Are Still Asking The Wrong Questions (November 4, 2014)
- Ray Rice is Out of the NFL: But Why Did it Take Until Monday? (September 8, 2014)