This Sunday is the big day: Carolina versus Denver. Having grown up in Chicago in the 1980s, I can understand how important the Superbowl is to these fans. In 1985, every classroom at my elementary school was brought into the cafeteria, gathered around a small television set, and we all watched the 1985 Chicago Bears perform their famous “Superbowl Shuffle.” To this day, I remember all the hype around football in my town that year; it was such a big deal!
While I don’t live in North Carolina or Colorado these days, I am sure children in those locations will remember when their hometown team made it big. I would bet those kids know their team uniform, can recite team songs, and have a favorite player (in 1985, mine was “Sweetness”, Walter Payton, obviously).
I think about this a lot as I parent two small boys, ages one and three. We don’t live far from AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys play. Now, the Cowboys aren’t just my family’s hometown team, but they are, arguably, “America’s Team.” As you probably know, Greg Hardy is a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys, and he is in the news quite a bit. In 2014, Hardy was still playing for Carolina, and he was the subject of a protective order. The victim in the order reported that Hardy picked her up, threw her into a bathroom, then dragged her into a bedroom, choked her, picked her up again, and threw her onto a couch covered in loaded assault rifles and shotguns. He then told his victim he would shoot her if she reported the incident to anyone.
We all know this story – you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard it. I have never run a business (I’m in the nonprofit world) and I don’t feel equipped to tell the Dallas Cowboys how to handle their Greg Hardy problem. What I do know is this: my kids watch football with our family. My kids are boys. Someday, they will be aware enough to really hear this and other stories of NFL players and violence against women. I can say with confidence that my husband and I model an equitable relationship to our boys every day, but it would be foolish to assume they wouldn’t have some level of confusion when they learn of how quickly accepted NFL player behavior has been over decades – how there were no consequences for domestic violence (and, frankly, other crimes). The NFL didn’t even require clinical treatment. They required nothing of their players. For all intents and purposes, they ignored the crimes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: SafeHaven of Tarrant County operates an accredited Battering Intervention Program down the street from AT&T Stadium. This program is specifically designed for those who are offenders. Many who attend are in denial about their role – they blame the victim for “forcing their hand”. The goal of the program is to take violence off the table. That’s it. We don’t teach how to have a perfect relationship or how to make every day a walk in the park (newsflash: it never is). The goal is simply: take violence off the table.
Whether it’s our program or someone elses, it matters not. The important thing is that offenders get treatment. When left untreated, they will offend again. Firing them from their jobs will not stop the violence. Scolding them will not stop the violence. Suspension from a game will not stop the violence. The only thing that will is treatment.
As you watch the Panthers play the Broncos on Sunday, and enjoy pizza and beer and cheering and fellowship, know there is a solution for the NFL’s abuse problem. It’s a matter of the NFL pursuing the option sitting right in front of them.
President and CEO of SafeHaven of Tarrant County