clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Goodell needs to be held accountable for NFL domestic violence epidemic

New, comments
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL's domestic violence problem is not going away, it is getting worse. It seems like every day there is another player has been arrested for domestic violence with the latest being Arizona Cardinals RB Jonathon Dwyer. He isn't just charged with beating up a woman OR a child, he outdid everybody else and went for both at once.

In handcuffs, deactivated, and unable to leave the state, Dwyer is now looking at 2 felonies and several misdemeanors. He is accused of two separate incidents of domestic violence against his wife and his son.

The first incident he allegedly head butted his wife after she refused his advances. The police came to their home but his wife had sent them away while Dwyer hid in the bathroom. She did this because Dwyer threatened to kill himself in front of her and their child if the situation went public. In the police interview that happened yesterday Dwyer admitted to hiding in the bathroom and sending a picture of a knife with the suicide threats.

The second incident happened the following day when Dwyer allegedly punched his wife to the left side of her face with a closed fist and threw a shoe at his 17-month old son. He then took the phone out of his wife's hand as she attempted to call 911 about the abuse and threw the phone out of their second story window.

The alleged incidents happened back in July for Dwyer so you can't say he should have learned from what happened with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. His arrest comes at the worst possible time for the league, which is already embroiled in domestic violence scandals the likes of which the league has never experienced before.

In Ray Rice's situation he was suspended indefinitely by the league and released by the Baltimore Ravens for physically assaulting his then-fiancé, now-wife in a hotel elevator. He was originally suspended for just 2 games for his actions but then a video of the altercation showed how awful it all really was and forced harsher punishments to be levied on the former running back.

Adrian Peterson's case is different, it involves his using a switch (a flexible tree branch) to punish his 4-year-old son. His case happened in February in Texas but he hadn't been indicted until last week. The police report was accompanied by pictures of the welts and open wounds left by the switch as well as text messages from Peterson to his wife detailing what he had done. He has fully cooperated with authorities, admitting to beating his son, claiming he believed it was a suitable punishment. The boy had pushed one of Peterson's other sons while the two were playing a video game.

Two other high profile cases involve Panthers' star defensive end Greg Hardy and 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald. Hardy has been convicted by judge of assaulting a woman by choking her and throwing her onto a pile of loaded weapons while threatening her life. He is appealing the ruling by requesting a trial by jury. As for McDonald, he is accused of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend.

These incidents are already drastically affecting the way the league is run, which is long overdue. The fact that so many of these cases are happening all at the same time has brought intense scrutiny on the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell. Now even the sponsors -- such as Nike and Anheiser-Busch -- have chimed in. And once the bottom line for the NFL is threatened, they tend to start listening.

Money is the true catalyst for change in a big business like the NFL. It is sad that it came to this, but at least it is finally being addressed. The thing is, these are not even the worst cases that have hit the NFL. It is only now that the accusations are hitting home on some of the league's biggest active stars that the league is taking a stance.

When it was two of their retired stars being accused of violence against women you didn't hear anything at all from them. Have you heard the story of David Meggett? He was a three time All-Pro, Super Bowl champion running back and return man for the New York Giants in the '90s.

He retired in 1998 as one of the most accomplished return men in NFL history. Oh, and he was a serial rapist. SB Nation's Greg Hanlon wrote a startling expose on the "man" back in January who was finally stopped and put behind bars in 2009. His appeals have been denied and he has received a 30-year prison sentence.

How about Darren Sharper, have you heard what he is accused of? Unlike Meggett, Sharper isn't just a multi-time Pro Bowler, he was on his way to Canton after an undeniably hall of fame worthy career. Like Meggett, Sharper is accused of being a serial rapist.

Sharper has been held in an LA County Jail for the last 202 days awaiting trial for the suspected drugging and raping of two women in California. He is also facing charges in Arizona, Nevada and Louisiana on similar charges. He has not been convicted of any crimes yet and he has maintained his innocence, but the accusations are all incredibly similar despite being in different states across the country.

Darren was working for the NFL Network as an analyst when these allegations came to light. They suspended him indefinitely at first and then fired him altogether a month later. The only statement made about his case came when he was suspended and it read simply:

"Darren has been suspended without pay until further notice, effective immediately. Regarding the charges, as a matter of policy, we don't comment on pending legal action."

That's it. No comment. Nothing to see here, move along.

I get that they don't want to comment on a pending case. However, they could at least add in something along the lines of "the charges are disturbing" somewhere in there. They had already had the experience of David Meggett just a few years earlier on which they didn't comment at all.

Both of those instances show NFL players accused of using their team travels as a means to commit crimes against women. That is a very real concern that the NFL should have addressed at that time, but they chose to make as little waves as possible.

No comment. Nothing to see here, move along.

Though the NFL has no obligation when it comes to former players, there was a willingness on the NFL's part to sweep these issues away as quietly as possible. Many people still to this day have not heard of the depravity of David Meggett, and the NFL would prefer it remain that way.

Then comes this array of charges against active NFL players and the standard practice of sweeping under the rug was no longer an option.

They still attempted to brush it away in Ray Rice's case by ignoring -- or as Roger Goodell would ike you believe 'never seeing' -- the tape of the violent altercation between Rice and his fiance inside of the elevator, but that blew up in their face when TMZ made the video public. The resulting outrage at the slap-on-the-wrist 2-game suspension must have been quite a surprise to Goodell and the NFL. They had never been called out like that before.

Roger Goodell had committed a grave error. This had become much bigger than just football. This was about violence against women in general. It became the story that it should have become regarding the disgusting life of David Meggett.

They should have addressed domestic violence at that time, they should have addressed it when they found out they had an active serial rapist committing crimes across America while traveling to play football. They did not, they did not want the exposure.

One would have thought that Ray Rice's story would have been the apex of how bad this would get for the NFL. Then came Adrian Peterson and his switch. Peterson isn't just A star, the best running back in football, just a season removed from being named Offensive Player of the Year, and a face of the game today.

When the story hit about him using a tree branch to discipline his 4 year old son the response was deafening. Still reeling from Ray Rice, the NFL simply could not comprehend having one of their biggest stars indicted on child abuse charges.

The Minnesota Vikings deactivated Adrian Peterson for the first game after the incident became public and that was an excellent response by them. Then they attempted to reactivate him for the following game, not such a good response anymore. That's when the sponsors began talking and the NFL rethought their position and since have deactivated him indefinitely and placed him on the Exempt/Commisioner list.

As far as as an outright suspension, the NFL is still waiting for "due process" to play out. Until then Peterson will still be making his multi-million dollar paychecks while sitting on the couch denying that he is an abuse.

Many would argue Peterson doesn't need "due process" in this case. He has admitted to all the charges described in the police report. His defense, according a statement from his attorney, is simply that he believes he was doing no wrong and that he didn't intend to harm the child. But this is abuse, plain and simple.

There should not be a debate about this, there should not be another side to it. It doesn't matter if that was how he was disciplined as a child; it is wrong now. The motive behind it does not matter. Even if the intent is "good" in the discipline, the means of which the discipline is dispensed matters. The road to hell is paved in good intentions.

The teams involved in these incidents all have tried to let the players off lightly before a harsher punishment was handed down. The Vikings had tried to reactivate Peterson after just one game sitting out. The Panthers let Greg Hardy play the first week of the season before finally deactivating him, the Ravens gave Ray Rice their unwavering support right up until the actual video of the assault was released, and worst of all the 49ers have yet to punish Ray McDonald in any way whatsoever.

Roger Goodell is the man that is suppose to make sure everybody else in the NFL is acting accordingly. He clearly hasn't done that. He was more than willing to move on with a slap on the wrist before public outcry forced a harsher response from him and this is all after he previously whiffed on domestic violence throughout his tenure as commissioner. It is time for a new era of the NFL to start, one without Roger Goodell.

The NFL needs to change its thought process with regard to incidents like these and they are only now making efforts to do so. It was forced upon them by justifiable outrage at their complacency but at least it is finally in play.

The new rules regarding the domestic violence penalties are a step in the right direction, but it needs to be the first step in a marathon and not just the first of a wind sprint. Now that the cat is out of the bag, the NFL has an opportunity to take a real stand.

The NFL needs to prove to society that they care about the cause of the problem itself and not just the public outcry once the issues make headlines.

Roger Goodell's job is in jeopardy and rightfully so. It is in the hands of the NFL owners to make a statement and fire him now. Domestic Violence should no longer be tolerated and neither should cover-ups or minimizing it. Ray Rice isn't the first time that the initial response from Roger Goodell was far from good enough. This isn't the first time that he was too light on his response to domestic violence and this isn't the first time he has tried to quietly move on from an incident.

Leading women's rights attorney Gloria Allred has brought up another time that Goodell had covered up, it involves former Bronco and current Bear Brandon Marshall. Back in 2007 Brandon Marshall was suspended for 3 games for a DUI and a domestic violence arrest. Just 3 games. That was already too small of a response for these transgressions. But wait, it gets worse.

After appeal the suspension was reduced to just one game -- one single game. That isn't even enough of a punishment for his DUI for which the new rules would require a suspension. Back then there was no public outcry, there was no eruption of outrage. It was allowed to be swept under the rug and it was barely acknowledged.

It was not an issue to Goodell, he did not believe it mattered enough to warrant a stiffer punishment, it was proven over years. His ignorance is appalling and completely unacceptable.

Without the owners forcing Goodell to step down it is hard to believe that the NFL is really sincere about taking on the issue of domestic violence. It just yet another cover up and more damage control. Will the NFL finally change their ways or will they just hide their heads during the storm and wait until they can return to their version of the status quo?

No comment? Nothing to see here? Move along?

Let's hope not.

Levi Damien contributed to this article