The NFL Has a Domestic-Violence Problem, But All We Got Was This PSA


Ever since the NFL embarrassingly mishandled the Ray Rice domestic-assault incident this summer, the league has tried to prove it has become enlightened about violence against women. Its latest attempt? A 30-second Super Bowl ad.

The new public service announcement, which will air during the first quarter of Sunday’s game, pans through a house in disarray, presumably because of a domestic dispute, while audio of a woman talking to a 911 dispatcher plays over it. At the end, a message flashes on: “Help End Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault; Pledge to Say ‘No More.'” The PSA was made, free of charge, by advertising giant Grey for the sexual- and domestic-violence-awareness group NO MORE; the league donated the prime advertising spot, worth about $4.5 million.

These broadcasts are part of an NFL offensive to save face after the Baltimore Ravens and the league created an uproar by barely punishing Rice after he was first charged with assaulting his then-fiancée (and current wife). It wasn’t until TMZ leaked security footage showing Ray Rice punching Janay Rice in an Atlantic City elevator (which Goodell dubiously claimed he hadn’t seen before) that the NFL indefinitely suspended the Ravens running back and began to make an effort to change how it handles players accused of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The NFL has since reformed its punishments for players involved in domestic or sexual violence, created rather confusing new disciplinary bodies to determine and hand out those punishments, required the league to attend education sessions about sexual assault and domestic violence, and hired female advisers to improve how the league deals with domestic violence.

The NFL had its first test leading up to the AFC Championship game, when it put the Indianapolis Colts’ Josh McNary on paid leave after he was charged with rape. But in order for the NFL to prove that it’s committed to lasting reform of an entrenched culture that has long ignored and even enabled violence against women, it will need to continue to address these issues—long after its Super Bowl ad has aired and the dust of this horrible season has settled.

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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