In case you’ve been living under a rock, the NFL has been plagued by two high-profile incidents recently that involved violence against women.
You may recall the San Francisco 49ers recently cut Reuben Foster after his second domestic violence arrest in Florida right after Thanksgiving. In a move not at all surprising, the Washington Redskins picked up Foster because team president Bruce Allen says he researched the situation and felt comfortable with Foster’s account.
This was Foster’s second arrest involving the same woman against whom he had been previously charged with felony domestic violence, forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime and possession of an assault weapon. The previous domestic violence and prevention charges were dropped and the possession of an assault weapon reduced to a misdemeanor after the woman recanted her complaints.
The NFL suspended Foster for the first two games of the 2018 regular season for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and its Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse (based on a possession of marijuana charge in Tuscaloosa in January 2018) for the prior arrest.
Here he is again – same woman, same issue, different day.
Of course, all of this drama with Foster’s most recent transgression was transpiring during the United Nation’s commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which cites the most common place that women are likely to be killed is in their home by their partner. This celebration dovetailed with the sixth anniversary of the murder of Kasandra M. Perkins by Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, who committed suicide in 2012.
If that’s not enough, enter Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs star player who was cut from the team after a video surfaced of Hunt shoving and kicking a 19-year-old woman at a hotel in Cleveland. Hunt can be seen on video engaged in a physical altercation with this woman.
The Chiefs brass says they fired him because he lied to them about the incident instead of telling them the truth. Hunt, 23, is now on the NFL’s exempt list until an investigation is completed and discipline can be handed down by the league.
Foster’s case involved his girlfriend and Hunt’s case involves a young woman whom he had been introduced to that day, but the fact remains violent acts involving women occurred in both situations and something more has to be done. You would think with all of the high-profile stories involving violence against women and active NFL players, the league would have a no tolerance policy in place, but none exists. So, exactly how many women need to be allegedly beaten, threatened, attacked, raped, etc. for the NFL to take these incidences seriously?
At this point, there’s a formula for what is happening to women at the hands of some (clearly not all) NFL players. Choose a hotel, add alcohol and/or drugs, plop a few women in the mix with a high-profile NFL player and BOOM, the pot boils over and violence unfolds.
The transparency of it all is what’s maddening. Even Stevie Wonder can see the NFL has a culture problem and more intentional measures need to be taken to shift that culture. How can a player get cut from a team for a domestic violence charge and be claimed by another team before an investigation is concluded? And, don’t think we didn’t notice Hunt wasn’t let go by the Chiefs until after he was placed on exempt status which means he can’t be picked up by another team quite yet.
Trust and believe, a player as talented as Kareem Hunt will play again in the NFL, and possibly for the Chiefs, despite the video showing him swinging at this woman and then kicking her in the head while she lay crumpled on the ground in front of him and his crew that night at the hotel.
What’s even more maddening is how the NFL and its owners seem to be more pissed about a player kneeling to protest police brutality, than the nine arrests involving violence against women in 2018. How are you mad at one person peacefully protesting, but give a “Kanye Shrug,” to folks knocking out women? Kaep can’t get picked up but folks who beat on women can get “claimed” and re-hired? Yeah, that makes sense.
Football teams are cutting these woman beating players, which is good, but the NFL is giving them a get out of jail free card by moving them to exempt status, so they can eventually be picked up by another team whenever the time is right. The team and league pretend to be angry, knowing good and well they don’t give a damn about these women. They engage in what Kathy Redmond of The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes calls “non-investigations,” in an effort to protect their brand and manage potential public relations fall out. The NFL knows what fans know—the accused player will more than likely get the baseline punishment of six suspended games and move on with their multi-million dollar lives.
Many believe a presumption of innocence should be applied to these situations when it comes to violence against women and active NFL players. If there is enough evidence for a team to cut a player outright, then surely that should be enough for the NFL to follow suit. Think of the number of players ready and waiting for a chance to play in the league who aren’t breaking bones in women’s faces. Call me crazy, but I strongly feel like the league should be made up of men who can keep the tackling to other men on the field and not women in hotel hallways.
After the Ray Rice debacle, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell promised the league would do better, but better could not include failing to interview Hunt after the allegations were initially made. Plainly said, Goodell and the NFL are tone def when it comes to violence against women. Playing for the NFL is a privilege, not a right and if players can’t get themselves together to enjoy that privilege, then they should be out of the league. Period.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is an award-winning writer, entrepreneur, and professor living her best life with her daughter, Kai, and fur-son, Mr. Miyagi. She is founder and editor in chief of The Burton Wire, a news blog covering news of the African diaspora.