The MAN UP campaign is an initiative set up to make Irish men more aware of the ability they have to speak out against domestic violence. MAN UP is about one simple but powerful thing - men showing pride and leadership, challenging abuse and violence and supporting women and children. We at Balls.ie are fully behind the campaign, and with all the recent controversy regarding the NFL and domestic violence, we wanted to highlight some of those who were not afraid to speak out. See more about the MAN UP campaign at MANUP.ie.
The biggest current issue for the NFL is that of domestic abuse. The high profile case of Ray Rice, where a star player was seen to physically beat his fiancée and received a meagre two game ban before the footage was leaked and pressure was put on to ban Rice from the league indefinitely, has damaged the public perception of the NFL's ability to swiftly are properly deal with serious issues when they arise.
Then came Adrian Peterson, a former league MVP and one of the biggest names in the sport, who was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child back in September.
The two stories are the latest in a number of examples of NFL players bring caught up in domestic abuse incidents.
In all instances, the NFL stood off and seemed to gauge the reaction before issuing a statement or punishment. The players' teams punished the players before the league did. The reaction just wasn't good enough.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has admitted that he and the NFL have made mistakes in dealing with the recent instances of domestic abuse. Speaking at a press conference where the commissioner confirmed he would not resign, Goodell said:
Unfortunately, over the past several weeks, we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong," he said in his opening statement. That starts with me. The same mistakes can never be repeated.
It's all well and good to say these things, but the NFL need someone who can stand up and speak out against these issues, and act decisively when they arise.
While let down by their commissioner, the NFL world has seen some who were brave enough to show leadership and challenge domestic abuse, and they are who we wish to draw attention to here.
This past week Eli Manning lead a number of NFL stars in supporting the 'No More' campaign, a public service announcement set up to show that the NFL players don't want to hear any excuses when it comes to domestic violence.
These players have publicly shown support to a noble campaign, but in terms of actually speaking their mind on the issue, two players stand out from the rest.
The first is Buffalo Bills line-backer Brandon Spikes, who took to twitter to offer his candid opinion upon seeing the Ray Rice footage.
I don’t see how anyone can respect him. Put your hands on a woman. The woman that had ur child ???????????? #EyeContact
— BrandonSpikes51 (@BrandonSpikes51) March 29, 2014
Spikes was the only NFL player brave enough to honestly speak his mind on an issue through social media, something which NFL players do regularly for a whole host of other issues, but when it came to domestic violence, only Spikes was willing to chime in. It's only 94 characters, 3 emojis, and a hashtag, but at least he said something.
The second is a man who truly stood up and showed incredible courage as he offered his views on domestic violence speaking from personal experience. That man is Indianapolis Colts tight-end Dwayne Allen.
Allen spoke at a news conference for an Indianapolis shelter for victims of domestic abuse, which he himself contacted seeking to get involved, and told of how his mother was the victim of regular physical abuse while he was between the ages of four and six, and how it had an effect on him and his siblings who were too young to really understand what was going on. Allen said he would try and comfort his mother, but often just ended up crying with her. The emotional account that Allen gave was touching, and an example of a man who didn't care about his perceived image as a macho athlete, but instead had the bravery to be honest and admit the effect that domestic abuse can have on a family.
Allen finished with this:
I was disappointed because a colleague was going through something and didn't handle it the right way. Mom always said not to put my hands on a woman. That's one thing I take very seriously. It's our job [as NFL players] to step up to the plate and be those role models. It's about awareness. It's very important that we all get together and end this terrible, terrible, silent epidemic.
'Hats off' to a real man.
Fans of the NFL just don't have the platform to publicly address the issue of domestic violence in the same way that the players do. Fans of American sports traditionally only have one method of broadcasting their message to the nation, and that is to be spotted by a TV camera and broadcast to everyone watching the game. The use of banners and altered jerseys may seem insignificant, but if the millions of people watching the game see them, they see that there are people willing to show that they don't tolerate what their formerly favourite players have done.
Here are some of our favourite examples of creative fans speaking out:
The Baltimore Ravens fans also turned out in their droves to exchange their Ray Rice jerseys for that of a different player. The Ravens made a nice PR gesture to offer those who had bought a Ray Rice jersey the chance to swap it for someone else, but even they were surprised as almost 8000 people queued up to get rid of their Rice merchandise.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 19, 2014
The NFL is by far the most popular sport in the United States, and it is an incredibly lucrative organisation for sponsors. Most have chosen to ignore the NFL's handling of the issue of domestic abuse as it isn't their problem, but some sponsors have spoken out or withdrawn their support completely due to the lack of action by the NFL.
Since 2012, Nike have been the NFL's main sponsor, as all gear for every team in the league must be only that of Nike. It is an incredible earner for the sports company, but Nike CEO Mark Parker explained how Nike spoke to the NFL and told them that if they do not take more of a stand against domestic violence then they will be forced to withdraw their support.
We made our position known with the NFL that we don’t tolerate any sort of domestic violence. The commissioner’s responding. This has been a great lesson for the NFL. He has acknowledged that and is moving forward. I’m optimistic they are moving in a better direction.
Anheuser-Busch too voiced their discontent:
We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviours that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.
Radisson hotels were a sponsor of the Minnesota Vikings until the Adrian Peterson case.
Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children. We are closely following the situation and effective immediately, Radisson is suspending its limited sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings while we evaluate the facts and circumstances.
Proctor & Gamble were a major part of the NFL's breast cancer awareness month and had organised one player from each of the 32 teams to be an ambassador for breast cancer awareness, until they were dissatisfied by how Goodell & Co. handled the Rice incident and pulled their sponsorship indefinitely, while still making the donations and contributions that the players had committed to the various charities.
It is refreshing to see these companies publicly criticise the NFL despite the obvious financial benefits that their sponsorship would bring.
Men are amazing role models for younger boys and children. We need to see more men stand up and be counted when it comes to dealing with domestic abuse, because while we have highlighted the bravery of those who have done just that, they are still in the minority, and until that changes, then we will be left waiting for the change in attitude towards domestic abuse that we all want to see.