Yesterday, feminist website Broadly published a profile of 44 NFL players who have been accused of sexual or domestic violence. The profiles are categorized into two appropriate classifications: the Rapey Roster and the Domestic Violence/Violence Against Women Depth Chart. Each player’s offense(s) is detailed in his profile. The introduction explains that, “when we celebrate these men as athletes and role models while overlooking their alleged histories, we contribute to a culture in which violent misogyny is normalized.”
But Broadly is hardly the first to bring the NFL’s culture of violence against women to light, especially over the last year. In her book Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture -- and What We Can Do about It, published in August of this year, Kate Harding dedicates many pages to the now-infamous Steubenville, OH rape case of 2012, in which a handful of high school football stars were protected by their community while their rape victim was slut shamed and bullied so severely that she had to move, as well as the multiple accusations against Ben Roethlisberger in 2009 and 2010 (he is, of course, featured in the Broadly Rapey Roster). Prior to the release of Asking For It, Jon Krakauer’s Missoula was published in the spring of this year, using one particular college town as an example of the way that college athletes are protected while victims of sexual violence are treated like annoyances by police force or campus law enforcement and ostracized by their community for trying to report the crimes against them.
And perhaps the best exploration of the pitfalls of the NFL comes from author Steve Almond’s Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, wherein Almond explores the corporatization and racialization of the NFL, and the way in which we’ve come to accept violence against women as a part of its culture. Almond’s book can be summarized by one particular quote: "What does it mean that the most popular and unifying form of entertainment in America circa 2014 features giant muscled men, mostly African-American, engaged in a sport that causes many of them to suffer brain damage? What does it mean that our society has transmuted the intuitive physical joys of childhood—run, leap, throw, tackle—into a corporatized form of simulated combat? That a collision sport has become the leading signifier of our institutions of higher learning, and the undisputed champ of our colossal Athletic Industrial Complex?"
The book was released in September of 2014, less than six months before the Ray Rice scandal broke, in which the NFL helped to cover up the brutal assault of Ray Rice’s then-fiancée now-wife, Janay Palmer. What Rice’s attorney described as “a minor physical altercation” was actually a devastating assault, in which Rice dragged Palmer’s unconscious body out of an Atlantic City elevator. Almond described the NFL’s lack of concern over its players domestic and sexual violence characteristics as symptomatic of a bigger issue: “On any given Sunday, 30 percent of the players we're watching will wind up with serious cognitive problems," he said, in an interview with Mercury News.
Violence is far beyond the nature of the game itself -- it's the nature of the league's culture off of the field as well. And while it’s certainly not the first of its kind, Broadly’s profile is the most comprehensive collection of NFL players’ abusive backgrounds, and a much needed addition to the discourse of misogynistic sexual and physical violence against women in professional sports, and the NFL in particular.
Photos Via Facebook/Broadly and Flickr Creative Commons/Iain Gibson and mdennes
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