Cronkite Header

Cronkite News has moved to a new home at Use this site to search archives from 2011 to May 2015. You can search the new site for current stories.

Advocates, export: NFL cases bringing attention to domestic violence

Email this story
Print this story

PHOENIX – From the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice to the Arizona Cardinals’ Jonathan Dwyer, cases involving NFL players are putting a national focus on domestic violence.

To Jessye Johnson, chief operating officer for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, incidents aren’t on the rise. Rather, they’re finally being noticed.

“Since the Ray Rice incident, the national conversation is skyrocketing to a new level of awareness,” she said. “It’s not a new problem, it’s just one that’s being talked about in a different way.”

The Cardinals deactivated Dwyer, a running back, from all team activities Wednesday following his arrest on charges of assault and domestic abuse. The team announced Thursday that Dwyer was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Earlier this year, Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington pleaded guilty to a domestic abuse charge. Unlike Dwyer, Washington has yet to be disciplined for that conviction, though he is suspended for the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Johnson said the NFL and the Cardinals aren’t necessarily at fault for how Washington’s case has been handled.

“What we’re seeing now is the NFL providing tools to take action against domestic violence,” she said. “I don’t think the Cardinals had those tools then like they do now.”

Johnson referred to a new NFL policy put in place last month. Players who commit domestic abuse will now be suspended for six games on their first offense, followed by a lifetime ban on their second.

“We clearly saw them act swiftly with the Dwyer case and are pleased they are addressing it,” she said.

Lorie Simms, communications coordinator for the Valley domestic abuse shelter Chrysalis, said this new policy is helping change the way people look at domestic violence.

“We’re encouraged that people feel outraged by domestic violence in the NFL,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for people to feel that way for a long time.”

Simms said the best way to prevent domestic violence is through education and prevention at an early age. Since the NFL is targeting children as their next big audience, Simms argued that cases of domestic violence involving players should be a zero-tolerance issue.

But another expert said changing the stigma of violence in the NFL won’t be so easy.

Neil Websdale, a Northern Arizona University professor who directs the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative, said he was skeptical about an initiative to stop violent incidents in the NFL.

“The NFL runs a pretty aggressive, violent, macho sport,” Websdale said. “Just because they stand up against domestic violence, I don’t know if it will embrace a different cultural ethos or view of the world.”

“Contributing images of hypermasculinity while advocating anti-domestic violence … I don’t know how effective that will be,” he added.

Websdale said he isn’t surprised that this kind of behavior is stigmatized in the football world, adding that he won’t be surprised if it doesn’t change soon.

“If you sell a certain kind of violent masculinity and you ruin the bodies of these young men by pitching them against one another, it doesn’t surprise me that you have people who think violence is a way of solving their problems,” he said.