It’s no secret that when it comes to the National Football League, public image is the most important cog that drives their media giant. Whether you want to talk about the league’s ongoing concussion settlements or the circus stemming from national anthem protests, the NFL knows the on-field product on Sunday is important, but off-the-field perception reigns supreme the other six days of the week.
Still, the league continues to allow itself to be a punching bag on hot-button issues, namely domestic violence. With members of their workforce in the public spotlight, multiple incidents arise each year that challenge the world-renowned sports league’s legal standing, and also their ethical behavior. Once again, another case swirls around the NFL, and they’ve done absolutely nothing to prove to us that they give a damn about domestic violence as long as their ratings look great.
Linebacker Reuben Foster, who was less than three days removed from an arrest for domestic violence for allegedly pushing and hitting a women at a Tampa nightclub, was claimed off waivers by the Washington Redskins after the San Francisco 49ers released him. In his second professional season, the former Alabama Crimson Tide star was a three-time SEC Champion and unanimous All-American in college. After being a first-round draft pick, he spent his rookie year with the 49ers, but then his legal issues began.
In January 2018, he was arrested and charged with marijuana possession in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A month later, Foster was arrested and later charged with multiple felonies including domestic violence, forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime, and possession of an assault weapon for allegedly attacking his girlfriend at the time, Elissa Ennis. Later, she recanted saying, “It was all a money scheme. I didn’t want to get this far in the news.” Foster’s history is spotted with eyebrow-raising moments about his character from the outside, and this latest accusation only adds speculation into his nature off of a football field.
Still, that wasn’t enough to keep the 24-year-old football player out of a job, as the Redskins snatched him up immediately. Shortly after, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell placed Foster on the “commissioner’s exempt list,” meaning he cannot attend practice or games, but may still be present at the team’s facility for workouts, meetings and non-football-related activities.
Doug Williams, the Redskins’ senior vice president of player personnel, released the following statement after claiming Foster:
Apparently, a checkered past isn’t enough for the NFL to step up and simply say, ‘You know what, Reuben Foster isn’t allowed in the highest professional ranks until he proves that all matters of domestic violence are fabricated, and he had no involvement in this whatsoever.’
Take the case of former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy. While playing for the Carolina Panthers in 2014, he was found guilty on domestic violence charges and aggravated assault against former girlfriend, Nicole Holder. According to police reports, Hardy was accused of throwing her against a wall, throwing onto a bed covered in assault rifles, choking her and threatening her life. The next offseason, the NFL suspended Hardy for 10 games, though an arbiter in the case reduced that suspension to just four games. The 2013 Pro Bowl selection later signed and started all 12 games in which he was eligible during the 2015 season with the Dallas Cowboys.
If that’s not enough to raise curiosity into the league’s standing when it comes to violence against women, we can turn to current New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Since being drafted in 2006, Marshall has been named in at least eight domestic violence incidents against women. Though none have led to convictions in court, it’s curious that a person named in so many cases doesn’t have domestic violence issues. The six-time Pro Bowl selection was suspended by the NFL only once for a drunk-driving and domestic assault arrest back in 2008: Marshall served a one-game suspension.
Here’s a short list of NFL players involved in various abuse cases in recent years:
— Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back
— Adrian Peterson, current Washington Redskins running back
— Jonathan Dwyer, former Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers running back
— Dez Bryant, New Orleans Saints wide receiver
— Erik Walden, former Tennessee Titans linebacker
— Santonio Holmes, Super Bowl XLIII Most Valuable Player
— Ray McDonald, former San Francisco 49ers defensive end
— Daryl Washington, former Arizona Cardinals linebacker
— Kevin Williams, defensive end who played 10 seasons after domestic assault charge
— Chris Cook, former Minnesota Vikings cornerback
— Frostee Rucker, charged with sexual assault and domestic battery, currently plays for the Oakland Raiders
Our country’s legal process absolutely needs to take place, but this is more than just cases of he-said, she-said. The NFL is inherently flawed when it comes to action taken against abusers and alleged abusers alike. Money and power has developed a culture of untouchable men who appear to do as they please without repercussions. Professional football’s personal conduct policy is flawed, and it appears they’d rather we forget about domestic violence as quickly as possible.
The NFL doesn’t care about domestic violence if people are watching, so why should we care about the NFL?