I love football. I eagerly await NFL games on Sundays, wearing my best Patriots swag. I attended all my college games as a student, and most of my grad school games as well. I even played women’s flag football in high school and college (quarterback, of course). I love Thanksgiving, when we get together with cousins in New Hampshire, where the women are glued to the TV watching football and the men wander away to read books.

What I don’t love is the way the NFL is handling domestic violence among its players. Two prominent examples of bad behavior by players and the league happened recently: Reuben Foster, now of the Washington Redskins, who had a series of domestic violence incidents in 2018, and Kareem Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs, who kicked and shoved a woman outside his Cleveland hotel residence. Astoundingly, Foster was picked up immediately by another team. Even more amazing, the NFL did a shoddy investigation of Hunt without ever obtaining a damning video of him circulating on the web.

It just doesn’t look like the NFL takes domestic violence seriously. Let’s look at recent player drafts. In 2017, one player was picked in the first round while facing an active rape investigation. Another player was picked in the second round despite a video showing that he punched a woman in the face, breaking some bones. A player was picked in the fourth round even though he has been charged twice with assault against his children’s mother.

Seriously? Isn’t this the same league that investigated Deflategate ad nauseum? The New England Patriots lost Tom Brady for four games, paid $1 million in fines, and lost two draft picks — for a deflated football. Remember Michael Vick, a star quarterback, who was heavily punished by the NFL and went to prison for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring?

And let’s not forget Colin Kaepernick, whose career is over as he is being shunned by owners for leading the movement to kneel during the national anthem in protest of another form of violence. Why can’t domestic assault and abuse rise to this level of urgency among the leadership of the NFL?

It all starts, really, with colleges turning a blind eye to abuse among team coaches and players. Penn State, under venerable coach Joe Paterno, ignored obvious signs of child sexual abuse by an assistant coach for over 15 years. Urban Meyer, who propelled Ohio State football back to national prominence, was suspended early this season for protecting a longtime assistant who had been a domestic abuser. He is “retiring” after the Rose Bowl, citing medical reasons. Anyone who knows football knows that Florida State has had numerous cases of players investigated or arrested for assaults.

Thank goodness for videos posted on social media or we may never know the degree to which colleges gloss over these violent events.

Other professional sports are much better at dealing with domestic violence and abuse. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have a joint policy in their collective bargaining agreement that deals with domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. Under this policy the MLB commissioner handed down the longest suspension ever for domestic violence — 82 games — to an Atlanta Braves outfielder in 2016.

The National Basketball Association and Players Associations have a similar joint domestic abuse policy inserted into their collective bargaining agreement.

However, there is no such collaborative recognition of this policy between the NFL and its union. Is this a tacit agreement that the sport is inherently violent and attracts naturally aggressive personnel? That off-field aggression is just collateral damage?

The NFL needs to wake up and realize it can’t afford to lose the woman demographic. Revenues are slipping for the NFL as broadcast TV viewing is dropping across the board, the NFL included. Approximately 45 percent of gameday viewership is women. This is not lost on the NFL, as women are increasingly appearing in broadcast booths and on-field interviews. If women start peeling away from the fan base, it will signal the beginning of a downward spiral — sorry — for the sport.

Players must hold each other accountable, meaning the NFL Players Association must be more involved in prevention, not just defending. Teams and owners must hold each other accountable when horrendous behavior is tolerated in the name of winning. It shouldn’t take outrage among fans and the media before owners do the right thing.

Perhaps the president can insert himself into this critical issue facing the industry as he has with the players kneeling in solemn protest — the owners seem to listen to him.

If the NFL continues to pay lip service to abuses perpetrated by owners, coaches, and players, rabid and loyal female fans like me and my New Hampshire cousins will begin to look elsewhere for our sports entertainment.

Curling is looking better all the time.

Lisa Miller, of Somerville, is a former legislator who served on the health and human services and appropriations and financial affairs committees.


Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.