Yesterday the NFL announced that it is launching a new women-centric website: http://women.nfl.com/. The league is finally acknowledging that a large percentage if its fan base is women, and now it has launched a full-on campaign, devoting millions of dollars towards marketing, merchandise and apparel, expecting to get a high return from devoted female fans.
I’m confident they’ll rake in the profits. The clothes are pretty cute, and all of us Gridiron Gals have spent years learning tricks for pinching and tucking the bulky jerseys and finding ways to show off our figures and style while supporting our team. (I, for one, have a lucky band that ties the back of my Troy Polamalu jersey.)
The NFL sees that women fans are a fast-growing and valuable market sector, worth millions in revenue from ticket and apparel sales. However, apparently we are not worth enough for the league to take a strong stance against violence or disrespect against us at the hands of its players.
We can go on the site and search for fitted jerseys, track pants, and even yoga mats branded for our favorite teams, but where can we get shirts that say, “No means no, even for quarterbacks,” or “Beat the other team, not your wife”?
The 2010-11 season started a few weeks ago, with three players suspended from play due to violations of the personal conduct code, stemming from allegations of abuse against women. The most noteworthy was Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is serving a four-game suspension, after he allegedly sexually assaulted a 20-year-old woman in the bathroom at a Georgia nightclub. New England Patriots guard/defensive tackle Quinn Ojinaka sat out one game, charged with simple battery, after throwing his wife down a flight of stairs, and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams was suspended two games following charges of a domestic dispute.
The NFL announced on Monday that Miami Dolphins DE Tony McDaniel will serve a one-game suspension next week, following an arrest on domestic violence charges shortly after last season.
In addition, the dust is finally settling after Inez Sainz, a Mexican reporter for TV Azteca, accused members of the New York Jets of sexual harassment when she attended one of their practices before the start of the season.
My fellow Steelers fans will be quick to defend Big Ben and say that he was never formally charged with a crime. That’s true, but even he admits that he acted inappropriately, and after a 3-0 start without him, Steeler Nation might not open our arms very wide to welcome him back.
Ben’s cases have been the highest profile, as he is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. But in the last two years alone, here is a sample of other incidents of that have occurred around the league:
- Santonio Holmes, New York Jets WR. While he was suspended for violations of substance abuse, he was also accused of throwing a glass at a woman at a night club.
- Brandon Underwood, Green Bay Packers CB, accused of sexual assault against two women.
- Eric Foster, Indianapolis Colts DT, accused of sexual assault, battery and false imprisonment of a 22-year-old hotel receptionist.
- LeRoy Hill, Seattle Seahawks LB, charged with fourth degree assault/domestic violence against his girlfriend.
- Phillip Merling, Miami Dolphins DE, charged with aggravated battery after hitting his pregnant girlfriend.
- Cornell Green, Oakland Raiders OT, arrested after slamming the mother of his two kids against a wall and hitting her with a mop.
- Larry Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals RB. Johnson pled guilty and received two years probation for two different assault incidents that occurred in 2008, including one where he spit on a woman.
Again, my list is merely a sample. Other allegations around the league where charges were dropped include St. Louis Rams Steven Jackson’s violent attack on his 9-month pregnant girlfriend; the Patriots’ Willie Andrews holding a gun to his fiancé’s temple; and let’s not forget the choking charges that Tila Tequila brought against San Diego’s Shawne Merriman.
This list was surprisingly easy to compile.
A note to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: When it comes to assault against women, lip service and suspensions are no longer enough.
With the launch of this new site, it is the perfect time for the NFL to take a stand. The site should include a statement from Goodell, saying that the league is instituting a zero-tolerance policy against this kind of behavior. A few other ideas he could think about instituting could include the following:
– Minimum four-game suspension when a player pleads guilty to an assault against a woman.
– All current and incoming players undergo sexual harassment seminars, particularly on what is acceptable to say to female reporters, NFL employees and cheerleaders.
– Accused players, whether charged or not, must attend anger management and behavior counseling.
– Accused players must donate a portion of their salaries to shelters for battered and abused women.
If the NFL wants to show how valuable women are to the league, it needs more than a website peddling wares. It needs action. Otherwise, the league might as well start marketing NFL-branded rape kits, band-aids and bruise-concealing make up.
Commissioner Goodell, we’re waiting, and you can’t let this kind of behavior continue to be pushed under the team-branded throw rugs. It’s time for you to show that you really do respect and appreciate your female fans as much as we love our teams.
P.S. Go Steelers!