Why I Stayed

(Photo: Pigskin 'N Pearls/Mili Tepavac)

(Photo: Pigskin ‘N Pearls/Mili Tepavac)

Last week, I got an interesting text message from a friend of mine.

“What would it take for you to boycott the NFL?”

It was a good question. I thought about it for a while and texted back.

“I guess turning a continued blind eye. But they don’t have that option.”

I thought about it some more and continued to think about it as new allegations of violence unfolded against another player, this time involving a child.

Was I wrong? Was I part of the problem? Was I enabling the bad behavior of the sport I love?

It’s now Sunday. And I’m watching football. Just like I do every Sunday.

I’m not boycotting the National Football League. Because I love football. Football is a big part of my life. Football is a big part of me. For the same reason that many women choose to stay in relationships, I’m choosing to continue my relationship with the NFL…simply because I have too much invested in it. And I care too much to walk away.

The NFL is not just another sport. It’s our sport. America’s sport. America’s game.

And it’s not just about the game. It’s about the players. It’s about the fans. It’s about the kids. It’s about bringing us together. Football crosses the barriers of age, sex, and race. So many things in life tear us apart, but football brings us together.

After a certain age, not many things give you goosebumps. Football still gives me goosebumps.

The NFL is at a crossroads. It has tough decisions to make. But it doesn’t have to do it alone. The owners carry part of the burden. As do the players. And the fans.

Together we make football.

And together we can change it.

And that’s why I stayed.

XO

Dear Adrian Peterson, You’re No Hero

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Dear Adrian Peterson,

This is a letter I never thought I would have to write. I’m just so sad, disappointed, and mad.

Maybe this one hits closer to home because I grew up a Vikings fan in Minnesota. I have family there. I have nieces and nephews who’ve been running around in your jersey since they were old enough to walk, and whose proudest moment in life was the day they got to meet you and shake your hand.

Now someone has to tell those kids that you won’t be playing on Sunday. Because you went to jail for beating a child. A child not much younger than they are.

Yes Adrian, I’m sad for the kids I love. But not nearly as sad as I am for the kids you love. They have a star football player as their daddy. The guy they look up to, the guy everyone looks up to, the guy they see on TV, the guy who all their friends want to meet…and the guy who beats them with belts and tree branches when no one else is around.

And yet, they still love you. And they still idolize you. Because you’re their daddy. And they don’t know any better.

But you, Adrian, you know better. I don’t care how you were raised in East Texas. I don’t care if your daddy “whooped” you growing up. Physical abuse of a child is not an “act of love.” And no one should know that better than you. You lost a child (a son you had never met) at the hands of another man, who delivered a beating so severe his poor little body couldn’t recover.

And you know what? While people were defending you, calling for your privacy, asking us not to judge, I was judging you, Adrian. I judged you for having a two-year-old son you never met. I’m still judging you for it. And the fact that you did the same thing to your other kids, only to a lesser degree, well…I’ll judge you for that for the rest of my life. And yours.

We’ve been talking all week about the damage a football player can do to a woman. But anyone can harm a child. It’s just that most of us choose not to.

I think it’s time we redefine what makes someone a hero. It’s not throwing a ball, catching a ball, or running fast while holding a ball.

A hero is someone who protects.

You’re no hero, Adrian.

Now, someone’s got to tell the kids that.

Letter From a Female NFL Fan

Dear Commissioner Goodell and DeMaurice Smith,

Before you file the Ray Rice incident away as a cautionary tale for the NFL Rookie Symposium, I want to take the opportunity to speak to you as a member of the female fan base.

First, I want to credit all the players, current and former, who stood up, spoke up, and manned up when the disturbing video of one of their peers was released to the public. It wasn’t all of them, but it didn’t need to be. The players who came forward: Terrance Knighton, Scott Fujita, LeCharles Bentley, Brady Quinn, Jason Taylor, Chris Harris, and others made an impact that will stay with us long after the news cycle of this story.

More so than anything else (and maybe despite anything else), it is the players of the National Football League who have the ability and the responsibility to change the culture of violence that exists within it. Fines, suspensions, and litigation withstanding, the disrespect and shame of one’s peers may be the one and only thing that causes players to think twice about allowing the brutal nature of the sport they play to spill out and into their off-the-field lives.

I don’t know if athletes should be held to a higher standard. I just know that they are. And whether that’s a burden or a blessing is up to each and every individual player.

It only takes one guy to be a problem. But it only takes one man to be a solution. It’s time for the players to start policing themselves and hold each other accountable for what happens on and off the field.

By embracing the spotlight shined on this dark corner of society and redirecting it to awareness and prevention, the NFL and the NFL Players Association has the ability to not only better the lives of its family, but the families of its large, passionate, and proud fan base.

And that is the good that I hope will come from this sad chapter in our sport.

Signed,

A Female Fan

How TMZ Changed the NFL

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Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice and his fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer.

The incident between Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancée, Janay Palmer, was ugly when it happened. And what happened next was just confusing. They got married. They held an awkward press conference. Palmer apologized for her role in the incident. They met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And eventually, Rice was suspended from the league for two games.

It all led me to one conclusion: there must be more to the story. Maybe we’d never know what it was. Maybe we didn’t need to know. Maybe it was none of our business.

Then, TMZ released the video. And that’s when I got angry.

Not that it would have made it better (much less acceptable), but I guess I expected to see Palmer attacking Rice and him defending himself. Maybe that’s what I wanted to believe. At least in part, it’s what I feel I was led to believe. And consequently, that’s exactly what some of Rice’s teammates have said.

I won’t post the video from the elevator in the Atlantic City casino, because I don’t want to see it again (and you probably don’t either). But, you know where to find it. There was obviously some kind of disagreement. Followed by an altercation. Followed by Palmer hitting the floor unconscious.

Rightly so, the release of the video sent social media into a frenzy. It wasn’t long before fans, journalists, even former and current players were calling foul. And not just calling it…screaming it.

By mid-afternoon, the Ravens had released Ray Rice and the NFL followed with an indefinite suspension. Both claimed they hadn’t seen the disturbing video until that morning.

What does it say that Ray Rice wasn’t blackballed until we saw video evidence of the brutal assault on his then fiancée? Among other things, that people are innocent until proven guilty. That it’s a tough area to prosecute by nature. That we want to give people (and especially famous people) the benefit of the doubt. And that sometimes, we believe what we want to believe.

As a result of the incident, the NFL put in place a new policy with a mandatory six-game suspension for players who commit acts of domestic violence and a lifetime ban for the second offense.

But what we’ve learned more than anything, is that the fans, the media, and the players have influence. That by speaking up, they can help draw the line on acceptable boundaries. And that on this issue, those lines are very clear.

Whether it’s the first time or not, any time a player puts his hands on a woman…should be the last time he steps foot on an NFL field.

Zero excuses. Zero apologies. Zero tolerance.

XO

Wes Welker: I Was Roofied

Broncos WR Wes Welker at the Kentucky Derby in May

Broncos WR Wes Welker at the Kentucky Derby in May

Oh, Wes Welker. You are killing me right now. And not because you got nabbed by the NFL for violation of the banned substances policy. You’re not even on my fantasy team. And with four of them, I basically own everyone.

What kills me, is that you…a grown man, a football player, and a professional athlete, went with the line most commonly used by badly behaved sorority girls: “Someone must have put something in my drink.” Come on, man.

Your trip to the Kentucky Derby last May was well documented. You were photographed (in sunglasses) handing out $100 bills after collecting $57,000 on a bet that should have paid out $42,000. But that’s neither here nor there.

It all sounded pretty epic. So epic in fact, that the NFL decided to conduct a random drug test.

And that was before rumors surfaced that you “popped a molly” at the race. Now, I have to be honest. When I first heard that, I thought someone was referring to a drunken sorority girl. But, no. Apparently that’s what they call Ecstasy these days.

Now, who would want to drug an NFL wide receiver at the Kentucky Derby? Maybe, a drunken sorority girl?! Hoping to take advantage of you? Again…come on, man.

And Just to prove you’re only as good as your following on twitter, my girl Kiki comes out with this one:

I’d ask you what you were wearing, but victim blaming is just not cool anymore. But, in a different tone…just what in the hell were you wearing?

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As it turns out, it’s a good thing you won that extra $14,000. You’ll need it to help cover the $700,000 you’re going to lose in game checks the first four weeks of the NFL season.

Looks like you just learned the first rule of gambling: the house always wins.

Or, in your case…the league.

XO