There’s new meaning being given to the term “political football.”
Politicians, a particularly opportunistic species, are pouncing on the National Football League like linemen on a fumble. That’s especially apt because it’s clear that America’s preeminent sports corporation has dropped the ball. Repeatedly. And like any team that coughs up the ball, there’s a price to be paid – perhaps beyond having to listen to politicians pound away.
In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton was quoted as calling Minnesota star running back Adrian Peterson’s actions a “public embarrassment” to his team and state. The league’s 2012 Most Valuable Player faces charges that he used a branch – in the South they’re often called a “switch” – to whip his 4-year-old. He says he was disciplining the boy. But even in the South, taking a switch to a 4-year-old is not acceptable. Peterson has not explained his behavior, but we’re not sure any explanation could excuse such treatment of a child.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has urged the 49ers to bench defensive lineman Ray McDonald. Allowing McDonald to play is a “painful affront to every victim of domestic violence and sends a troubling message,” Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, said in a joint statement.
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If Coach Jim Harbaugh is listening he isn’t acting, saying that he is “waiting for information, waiting for facts.” The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has not decided whether it will charge McDonald with domestic abuse or not following his arrest Aug. 31 for leaving bruises on his pregnant fiancée.
The NFL rap sheet keeps getting worse. Arizona running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested Wednesday for aggravated assault against a woman. That makes 10 arrests, one indictment, and two players “cited” for substance violations since July 1, according to a list in USA Today. Of those 10 arrests, six involved some form of violence; seven involved players being either drunk or having marijuana.
This is beginning to hit the NFL where it hurts – its balance sheet.
The Radisson hotel chain, a Vikings sponsor, suspended advertising after the team originally reinstated Peterson. “Radisson takes this matter very seriously, particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children,” the company said.
Anheuser-Busch, the official beer of the NFL, said it also is getting fed up: “We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.”
Studies have shown a connection between alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence, not to mention the number of NFL arrests.
The league and Baltimore Ravens suspended running back Ray Rice, but only after TMZ aired footage showing him in an Atlantic City casino elevator knocking out his girlfriend with a single punch. Apparently, the NFL acted only after it became public.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has appointed four women, including a new vice president of social responsibility, to help shape the league’s policies on domestic violence. We wonder if this is just window dressing. The NFL claims to have zero tolerance for off-field violence, but the league’s definition of zero tolerance appears to be situational.
But there is one situation the league won’t tolerate – lost revenue. If that continues, expect to see real change.