Monday, February 23, 2015

The NFL makes a poor scapegoat for society's domestic violence problem

Zachary Schlosberg's recent article on domestic violence in football omits the crucial fact that NFL players commit domestic violence at a much lower rate than the general population: roughly half as often as men the same age nationwide. Interestingly, the NFL rate is also lower than the NBA rate. Any domestic violence is too much, but this discredits the narrative that it’s inordinately prevalent in professional football.

Hours after the article was posted, the Academy Award for Best Picture was presented by famed actor Sean Penn. In the 1980’s, Penn was arrested for domestic assault of his then-wife Madonna, whom he supposedly struck with a baseball bat. Mel Gibson, Nicolas Cage, and many other Hollywood stars have been arrested on similar charges. Is the entire film industry also “disgraceful” for doing so little to fix the problem?

Selective outrage against the NFL reflects a deeper distrust of football itself, which long predates Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson. While Hollywood is full of unimposing drama geeks, the NFL is full of hulking jocks who make money through violence, so we’re predisposed to see them as brutish. Schlosberg reveals his own distaste for the sport when he claims the NFL "cares only about reproducing its own ugliness and turning its evils into more profit." He’s free to think football is ugly and evil, but it’s unfair to let that color his perception of the players' behavior off the field.

We all have an obligation to address domestic violence. Scapegoating sports won’t help.

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