On the EDge: NFL takes bold stride in supporting women

UPDATE SEPT. 8: The National Football League has suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice indefinitely after his contract was terminated earlier this morning for domestic violence. The steps were taken after videotape from a security surveillance camera in a hotel elevator captured Rice beating his wife unconscious. The incident prompted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to announce new guidelines for how the league will handle incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault.

St. George News columnist Ed Kociela commented on the issue in his column last week, republished here, however there is information in that column that is relevant to the women of Southern Utah who find themselves in an abusive relationship. We are rerunning the column today. May women who find themselves in an unsafe, unhealthy environment, find help through the resources provided.

OPINION – First published Sept. 2, 2014 – Over the last few years, my interest in the National Football League has waned considerably.

Instead of fanatical interest, I’ve ratcheted back to the point of being a very casual fan.

The NFL lost its charm.

It became too corporate, too elitist, too in-your-face.

I mean, when a guy like Alex Smith signs a four-year contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs for $68 million, you know something is out of whack. A decent quarterback? I guess, but he’s no Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw or even Steve Young.

There have been owner scandals, player scandals and fans beaten in stadiums across the country for simply showing up in the wrong colors.

As a result, the NFL has had its image tarnished – just about beyond repair.

League commissioner Roger Goodell tried to turn some of that around last week when he rewrote new guidelines for how the league will handle incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault. Goodell realized that he botched it when he gave Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice a two-game suspension for beating up his then-girlfriend. There was no doubting the circumstances of the Rice case. He was caught on videotape dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of a casino elevator. Rice not only received a slap on the hand from the league but also from the law. Instead of going to trial, all he had to do was enroll in an intervention program and make a public apology.

Goodell has, according to many sources, undergone some severe soul-searching since leveling the two-game suspension on Rice. Last week, he issued an open letter to the league, saying: “I didn’t get it right.” For somebody of his position and influence, that is quite a revelation. Guys with similar clout usually like to pass themselves off as infallible.

So, the commissioner met with a number of experts, team owners and representatives of the NFL Players Association to decide how to fix things.

He came up with a new policy that includes a number of programs to stem the rising flow of domestic violence.

The bottom line?

According to Goodell:

Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense. A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL.

Goodell added that the league may choose to make a suspension for a first-time offender longer or shorter, depending on various factors.

“Mitigating circumstances will be considered, and more severe discipline will be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child,” Goodell wrote.

We’ll see what kind of teeth the new policy has because just a couple of days after Goodell’s pronouncement, San Francisco 49er defensive end Ray McDonald was picked up and faces felony domestic violence charges for allegedly assaulting his fiancé, who is 10 weeks pregnant.

It would be easy, but ludicrous, to go off on Rice and McDonald and hold them up as examples of the pampered, overpaid, thugs and bullies they have become as a result of years of being unaccountable for their actions because of their athletic abilities.

But, this isn’t a problem endemic to the NFL.

We see these sorts of thugs and bullies in all walks of life.

Odds are you know a woman who is a victim of domestic abuse. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, and one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

Sexual assault or forced sex occurs in approximately 40-45 percent of battering relationships.

You might not realize it is happening, however, because domestic violence is the dirty little secret our culture steadfastly refuses to discuss.

More often than not, it goes unreported. When the police are called, the courts don’t mete out the kind of justice necessary to put an end to it, or women become so accustomed to it that they take it on as “their fault.”

But, it isn’t their fault and there are steps that can be taken to end it. They are difficult steps but necessary steps to help a woman maintain her dignity, spirit and, most importantly, her safety.

It’s a matter of recognizing the problem and mustering the courage to do something about it.

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition has published a list of signs to help a woman to recognize if she is in an abusive relationship  as well as a list of resources – from shelters to legal assistance – to help a woman escape the cycle of violence.

Locally, there is help. The DOVE Center offers services for women in Washington and Kane counties. The organization works in collaboration with the Erin Kimball Foundation to arrange transitional housing, and services include a Spanish-speaking advocate. The DOVE Center offers support groups for not only mothers but children and also offers parenting classes. The main number for the organization is 435-628-1204. If you are in crisis, call 435-628-0458.

The Canyon Creek Women’s Crisis Center serves Iron, Beaver and Garfield counties. There are a number of collaborating partners in the community that help with transitional housing, outreach services for rural communities, childcare and support programs for children, as well. The main number is 435-867-9411. If you are in crisis, call 435-865-7443.

The State of Utah also offers assistance for those who find themselves in a violent relationship. For help, you can call the Utah Domestic Violence Link Line at 800-897- 5465 or the Rape & Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 888-421-1100.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may have blown it with his initial punishment of one of his players. However, he has had an epiphany and is taking major steps to help those under the NFL umbrella avoid the tragedy of domestic violence.

And, by his actions, we can learn and, hopefully, share his enlightenment, spread awareness and offer support to those who find themselves entrapped in these horrid situations.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Red Rocker September 3, 2014 at 10:43 am

    I agree.
    Now, we awaken the trolls.

  • My Evil Twin September 3, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Excellent article, Ed!

  • bobber September 3, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Does the NFL support gay marriage? I bet at least 35% of those big burly men are closeted.

    • Koolaid September 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      I kinda wonder about the patting each other on the buttocks after a score. Could that a signal precluding another score or a making very forward pass.

  • Zonkerb September 4, 2014 at 3:47 am

    Bobber… Get a hobby

  • S. Carter September 4, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Get arrested for marijuana=suspended for the season
    Get arrested for knocking out your fiance=suspended for 2 games

    Way to get it right NFL!!!

  • JAR September 8, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I’m waiting for the NFL to show some leadership in the ‘Equal Employment’ area. Why don’t we see some 350 lb. sweat hog females on the offensive line? I’d pay big bucks to see one flatten Alex Smith, the quarterback, in the pocket.

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