by: Evie Zahner
Professional football players have the world at their fingertips. Buckets of money, tons of fans, and lots of recognition for being the very best at their sport. Their wives and girlfriends are their biggest supporters, by their side through all of the ups and downs of the season. During the season, NFL players are in peak physical condition, which adds on to their already bulky and muscular physique. Tough games or losses can bring out negative emotions, especially when your career is on the line. Sometimes you just need to get those emotions out, and that can manifest in a physical way. But while some might turn to punching pillows or yelling, some NFL players turn to physical violence against their spouses. There is a history of domestic violence in the NFL, and players who commit this crime often suffer little to no consequences.
Ray Rice was once a celebrated football player, but now has become the face of domestic violence in the NFL. On February 15, 2014, Rice and his fiancee Janay Palmer were arrested for what was described by his attorney as a "minor exchange of blows," and the issue seemed to disappear for a while. However, close to seven months later a video was released, which depicted Rice knocking Palmer unconscious with a hard blow to her left jaw, sending her to the floor of a casino elevator. He was then shown dragging her out of the elevator. The video, for many fans who tried to deny the allegations against Rice, gave them concrete evidence of the crime committed and made them face the shocking truth. Rice has since tried to "rebrand" and be a part of the anti-domestic violence movement, however it is hard to forget the severity of his actions. Ray and Janay Rice have been and remain married since 2014, which was the same year the video of the assault was released.
Now, this is a sensitive topic to try and cover, because however unlikely it may be, false accusations do occur. Maybe not in the case of Ray Rice, due to the evidence that was presented against him, but there is much more to some of these allegations and cases then we would think at first look. Studies have shown that between 2-6% of all allegations of domestic violence or sexual assault are false. This still leaves an overwhelmingly large amount of allegations that are true. Among NFL players, 48% of arrests account for cases of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Another interesting case is Zac Stacy. Stacy was arrested in December of 2021 after being accused of attacking the mother of his infant child, Kristin Evans. As it was with the Ray Rice case, there was footage of the attack. Stacy was shown slapping Evans and throwing her into a television set, which then fell on top of her. He was then shown throwing her into a baby jumper before leaving the house. Throughout the video, Evans was heard pleading with Stacy to stop, and their five month old child was on the couch next to them during the attack.
Players in the NFL have gotten away with serious incidents like this with just a slap on the wrist from the league and a suspension of a few games. Personally, I think it is disgusting how these players can do this to their spouses and not have any serious consequences. Most players are able to keep playing in the NFL after attacking their spouses. If it were up to me, players who were accused of abuse and proven guilty would not play in the league anymore. It is interesting to me how Colin Kapernick has been essentially blacklisted in the NFL and hasn't played since 2017, just for kneeling during the national anthem. A silent protest was more detrimental to a player's career than physical spousal abuse.
The NFL is problematic in many ways, and in my past two articles I have highlighted two of the most major issues within the league. I hope these articles have made you think deeper about the people and causes you are supporting by watching the NFL.