Over the past week, the violent scandals involving NFL superstars Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson have rocked the sports world. The stories seemed to break one after the other, collapsing on the NFL like an avalanche of failure and embarrassment. In the days since, the controversies have brought about many realizations – the main one being just how inadequate the League is at handling this type of violent conduct and the need for a massive change in policy.
While the NFL’s incompetence will continue to dominate the conversation, I believe the scandals highlight something else that reaches far beyond the scope of professional football. Something that we must address as a society.
The cultural justification of violence against women and children.
When the casino surveillance videos of the Ray Rice incident were made public, I was disgusted. Seeing a professional football player drag his unconscious fiance out of an elevator after punching her in the face literally made me sick to my stomach. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could watch such a despicable act and not feel the same way. However, it was soon made very clear that an inexcusable number of people don’t share my opinion on domestic violence.
As soon as the news broke, the justification began in a variety of forms. Immediately, people starting calling-in to sports talk radio stations, trying to place some amount of blame on the woman who had taken a haymaker to the face. A few days later, groups of Ravens fans proudly threw on their Ray Rice jerseys and showed them off to the world during Thursday Night Football. If that wasn’t enough, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of tweets and social media posts that actually defended Rice – a proven woman beater.
I was dumbfounded. I had always thought that the general consensus of our society was that violence against a woman in any way, shape, or form was wrong.
Apparently, I was wrong.
If there is one thing more horrifying than violence against a woman, it is violence against a child. Children and their developing bodies and minds should never be subject to the type of physical and mental trauma that comes with abuse. This is something everyone should agree on, but the sad realization is that they don’t.
I was genuinely shocked and outraged by the photos of the injuries Adrian Peterson inflicted on his four-year-old child – photos that were taken 6 days after the incident occurred. Those feelings only became exacerbated once I noticed how many people were defending the cuts and bruises to the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, legs, and scrotum as “discipline”.
Feeling the need to publicly rebut and condemn these ignorant and outdated opinions, I decided to express my views on child abuse and was met with a mixture of responses. Some people agreed with my sentiment, but others began to spout their own justification of the violence. Claiming that the photos were “bullshit” and that spankings always leave “bruises” and “dark red lines”, they believed Peterson was merely “teaching a child a lesson”. One individual felt that my defense of children made me an “opportunistic liberal blowhard” and called for the country to “toughen up“.
That’s right, USA – it’s time to toughen up and beat the hell out of your toddlers…
It needs to be pointed out that not everyone had these types of reactions to the scandals currently engulfing the NFL. Most people find domestic violence and child abuse to be wrong in every sense of the word. However, it has become painfully obvious that there is still a large group who are willing to accept and even defend these issues. That type of ignorance needs to come to an end, along with the excuses that follow. Just because previous generations took part in and condoned certain actions, it doesn’t mean that we should follow in their footsteps. Nor should the color of our skin or the region in which we were raised be held as vindication for our behavior. Times have changed, we have evolved and become more educated as a society, and it’s time to act like it. We must begin to hold ourselves to a higher standard, defend the defenseless, and condemn the abuse of women and children instead of justifying it.