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* In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that I am biased against the NFL. I doubt its sincerity, and that of commissioner Roger Goodell. I see a public relations campaign, not an anti-domestic violence one. There have been several other steps taken towards changing internal policy, which are reported in a far more sympathetic light here.
~ Toby Israel
“NO MORE’s Super Bowl ad is absolutely chilling.” It looks like it’s a real call:
The NFL will air the following PSA on domestic violence this Sunday, and the media is overcome with admiration.
Reports have deemed the 60-second video (it will fill a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl) “powerful,” “chilling,” “harrowing” and “important.” It is, unquestionably, all of these things.
In the video, we see a home marked, obliquely, by domestic violence and we hear a woman speaking to a police officer on the phone—allegedly based on a real 911 call. She orders pizza, unable to speak freely while her assailant is in the room. The police officer eventually understands the message she is trying to send.
Created by the League’s advertisement agency for the “No More” campaign to end domestic violence, the video is chilling, interesting and certainly effective. See for yourself:
However, as a response to harsh criticism of the NFL’s treatment of domestic abuse cases involving its players, it is a bit weak, I think.
The NFL has donated a 30-second spot for the commercial—a value of roughly $4.5 million. Is that the cost of restoring a reputation?
Don’t get me wrong, any step towards ending domestic violence in the United States is fantastic. And such a public vote of support from the NFL? Huge.
But still, I want to see more. I want to see real accountability.
To me, this ad looks like the NFL paying a relatively small sum to boost its image after last year’s fiasco. It looks like the NFL paying lip service to a cause it obviously should support, but taking little responsibility for changing the culture of violence that appears to pervade its own ranks. And it is powerful enough to change that culture, if it so chooses.
I want to see the NFL treat the abuse of spouses more seriously than it treats the abuse of substances.
When Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was charged with attacking his fiancee, the NFL suspended him from playing two games. (He was later suspended indefinitely.) The standard punishment for violating the League’s substance abuse policy? Four games.
Interestingly, the rate of domestic abuse among NFL players is about half the national average. Not bad, right?
No, not good enough. In the NFL, domestic violence occurs four times more often than all other crimes committed by players and relative to player’s income level, the numbers are unprecedented.*
Squarely placed as it is in the spotlight, the NFL has the option of making public examples of these cases when they come to light. Instead, it propagates the impression that society will be lenient with this sort of crime.
(The NFL did in fact increase penalties in August of 2014: a six-game ban for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second one. However, the changes were tardy, did not strictly define a first offense—promising to take into account “mitigating factors,” and would allow for players to petition for reinstatement after one year of said lifetime ban. Strong words, but will they change realities? It is too soon to tell.)
The NFL cares about maintaining its brand. Domestic violence has become bad for business. What happens next year if there are no more high profile legal cases? Will the NFL continue to be so generous with its multi-million dollar ad spots?
I guess we will have to wait and see.
I want the NFL to care about domestic violence, to openly condemn it and to make it a priority, not just run expensive ad campaigns and say the things the public wants to hear.
This video is a good, important first step, but it’s not enough.
If you want to read along, the full transcript of the video is as follows:
“I’d like to order a pizza for delivery.”
“Ma’am, you’ve reached 911. This is an emergency line.”
“Yeah, a large with half pepperoni, half mushrooms.”
“Um, you know you’ve called 911? This is an emergency line.”
“Do you know how long it will be?”
“OK, ma’am, is everything okay over there? Do you have an emergency or not?”
“…and you’re unable to talk because?”
“Is there someone in the room with you? Just say yes or no.”
“Okay, um, it looks like I have an officer about a mile from your location. Are there any weapons in your house?”
“Can you stay on the phone with me?”
“No. See you soon. Thank you.”
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Author: Toby Israel
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock