NFL to institute biased penalties for domestic violence

Know this upfront: I don’t condone or make excuses for anyone committing domestic violence.  However, the NFL has, in response to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, instituted a zero tolerance policy of sorts for these kinds of offenses.  ESPN reports that “[t]he NFL is immediately implementing a sweeping domestic violence initiative under its personal conduct policy that calls for a six-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense.”  Needless to say, I’m not a fan of zero tolerance policies.  They bind the hands of better judgement, and often impose sanctions on people which everyone knows wasn’t the intent of the policy.

My biggest concern with this announcement is that it unduly perpetuates the myth that men are always, or at least most often to blame for cases of domestic violence.  After all, when we think of domestic violence, what do we picture?  Me too. But maybe that’s too hasty of an image.  As it turns out, women are just as likely to initiate and participate in physical attacks in relationships where there is violence.  Moreover, when there is only one person committing the violence in the relationship, nearly 70% of the time it’s the woman.

(ScienceDaily) — The [University of Washington] study also found no independent link between an individual’s use of alcohol or drugs and committing domestic violence. In addition it showed that nearly twice as many women as men said they perpetrated domestic violence in the past year including kicking, biting or punching their partner, threatening to hit or throw something at their partner, and pushing, grabbing or shoving their partner.

(University of Florida) – In a survey of 2,500 students at UF and the University of South Carolina between August and December 2005, more than a quarter (29 percent) reported physically assaulting their dates and 22 percent reported being the victims of attacks during the past year. Thirty-two percent of women reported being the perpetrators of this violence, compared with 24 percent of men. The students took selected liberal arts and sciences courses. Forty percent were men and 60 percent were women, reflecting the gender composition of these classes.

(American Journal of Public Health) — Almost 24% of all relationships had some violence, and half (49.7%) of those were reciprocally violent. In nonreciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more than 70% of the cases. Reciprocity was associated with more frequent violence among women (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=2.3; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.9, 2.8), but not men (AOR=1.26; 95% CI=0.9, 1.7). Regarding injury, men were more likely to inflict injury than were women (AOR=1.3; 95% CI=1.1, 1.5), and reciprocal intimate partner violence was associated with greater injury than was nonreciprocal intimate partner violence regardless of the gender of the perpetrator (AOR=4.4; 95% CI=3.6, 5.5).

(Baltimore Sun) — Men are often the victims of their girlfriends or wives. Ned Holstein and Glenn Sacks (“The violence we ignore,” July 16, 2009) cite a 2007 Harvard study that says, “according to both men’s and women’s accounts, 50 percent of the violence in their relationship was reciprocal (involving both parties). In those cases, the women were more likely to have been the first to strike.”

The article continues: “Moreover, when the violence was one-sided, both women and men said that women were the perpetrators about 70 percent of the time.”

While it’s laudable that the NFL would make an attempt to recognize and address the issue of domestic violence, it helps paint a somewhat inaccurate picture.  An important question to ask is how we’ve come to hold the misperception that women are nearly always the victim.


  1. paynehollow says:

    I’m wary of zero tolerance policies, as well, John, for what it’s worth. At least in our schools and in the “drug war…” those sorts of policies tend to penalize the poor and minorities, so, for that reason, being wary is a good idea.

    Having said that, IF this policy (which is directed at, I assume, very large, very strong football players) is saying that, IF a player is convicted of abuse – that is, THEY were the ones in the wrong – THEN, they will be penalized, I don’t think I have a problem with that.

    If on the other hand, this policy is merely saying they have a zero tolerance for unsupported allegations of abuse, well then, no, I do not support that. So, for me, it would depend on the details.


  2. One assumes that the use of the term ‘offense’ presupposes there will be evidence to support any charge and NFL action will be implemented based on such findings?
    IE once criminal charges have been brought against the perpetrator and he is proven guilty?

    I submit that were there not reason(s) for such a move it would not have become an issue.

    SA police now have a zero tolerance policy toward alcohol related driving offenses – and rightly so.
    There are some instances where such policies are relevant.

  3. the new liberty says:

    Reblogged this on Natively Foreign and commented:
    Great article on the truth of domestic violence. Far too often we are presented with an image made to criminalize men, we need to stop pointing fingers and forming stereotypes and address problems without bias.

  4. John,

    Men are capable of inflicting far more damage, and often times do. That’s why we see pictures of women that look as though they hit a Mac truck with their face. I’m not saying women are incapable of severely injuring a man, or worse, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often. I believe severity ought to be a consideration.

    Regardless, I don’t support the NFL in this endeavor. It’s plainly obvious that this “zero tolerance” policy leaves no room for analysis, debate, or the consideration of otherwise mitigating circumstances. It’s nothing but an overreach by an organization notorious for appeasement.

    • But T, that’s what the anti Israel crown says. Just because they can do more damage doesn’t make them more wrong. And again, I’m not defending it even though it sounds that way. If the woman keeps coming and coming, eventually the level is going to rise enough to stop her. If that was the scenario. Of course when men abuse women because they’re just abusive , they certainly inflict more damage without a weapon. But my point is that’s not the average DV scenario.

      • John,

        You’re failing to take into consideration the fact that the NFL doesn’t govern a sport in which women are participants. You’re arguing against this policy, it seems to me, because you believe it to be discriminatory. But it’s not. The NFL isn’t discriminating; they simply don’t have any female members. And I said that I don’t like the policy because it appears to leave no room for analysis or otherwise mitigating circumstances.

        I don’t know that it’s “more wrong” when a man abuses a woman, but the fact that men can and do inflict more damage is certainly something to consider. If my wife slaps me, it stings. If I slap or hit her, she goes flying. So, it’s hard to say.

        • My point is that women are as at fault, and even arguably more at fault when it comes to committing domestic violence. Often times, both the man and the woman fight, are arrested, and convicted. Why should the player be also professionally impacted for somethjng he was ALSO a participant in?

          It seems to be too reactionary. It’s not that I don’t think it’s the NFL’s place — it’s their league, but to single out this particular issue is a response to negative media attention about the difference between a drug user and a woman abuser.

          The fact that there’s such a zero tolerance attitude with a punishment being a lifetime ban is just ridiculous.

  5. My problem with this policy is two-fold.

    1. What possible business is it of the league to dictate who can be hired by a team? I know they, like all sports leagues, has some say about the image of the league. But I think they go too far. Also, I haven’t read that actual policy other than what has been reported here, but where is the concern for the abuser? That is, do they have any provision that would result in counseling? It seems if they truly cared about ending abuse, they would put their dollars toward actually addressing the character flaw that resulted in the abusive behavior.

    2. What consideration was expressed for the families of the guy who got tossed after the second offense? Is the league going to force a divorce and denial of visitation with the kids? What will this penalty do to the financial situation of the family of the abuser? I can totally understand not wanting to associate with piece of dirt who beats on his wife. But not all wives are willing to separate over an incident, with some preferring to honor their vow of “..or worse”.

    I think it’s nothing more than grandstanding, just as was the Adam Silver decision in the case against Donald Sterling.

  6. paynehollow says:

    Hey, here’s an off-topic, light-hearted jab at in the news about our atheist friends…

    “Hardcore Atheists Now Equally Annoying As The Highly Religious, Finds Survey”

    Is that ringing true, Ark?

    • Where can I get one those super cool T-Shirts, please, Dan?
      I can wear it on alternate days to the one I have that says, ”My Friend Marshal is a Dickhead.”

      • Of course Ark would want to wear something that proclaims another lie. Look at the reality. The average atheist keeps to himself, not spouting off about Christians and other believers in deity. But so does the hard core believer. Such a person only responds to the childish rantings of an Arkenaten level hard core atheist. They don’t “start the fight” as it were. Indeed, it is the non-believer or the border-line or “in name only” believer that regards the highly religious as annoying, and mostly because they refuse to compromise on the concept of right vs wrong and the existence of whomever it is they worship. In other words, no “annoyance” if you don’t bring it up and throw a tantrum. This is evident in Ark’s every comment. He’ll throw out something he thinks is true, demands anyone prove him wrong without providing proof of his own, and then childishly uses profanity toward someone not willing to play by his very self-serving rules. Very Dan-like with less restraint.

        • The average atheist keeps to himself, not spouting off about Christians and other believers in deity. But so does the hard core believer.

          Morning, Dickhead!

          How’s the god -bothering business today?

  7. paynehollow says:

    No harm intended to our more annoying religious and a-religious friends. Just sayin…’

  8. paynehollow says:

    Or how about a shirt for each of you with arrows pointing opposite ways saying, “I’m with Annoying…”?

  9. paynehollow says:

    Ha. Fair enough. I’ll bring it when I come your way… ~Dan

  10. Since atheism was broached, I submit this comment:

    It is reasonable to ask whether all human beings do indeed long for the existence of God. For example, consider a serial murderer who took delight in the pain and trauma of his victims. Would there not be excellent reasons for supposing that he might hope that God does not exist, given what might await him on the Day of Judgment? And might not his atheism itself be a wish fulfillment? The history of Western thought makes it clear that one fundamental motivation for atheism is the fear of accountability and retribution in the sight of God.

    Alister McGrath, “Challenges from Atheism,” from the book, “Beyond Opinion,” Ravi Zacharias, author and general editor, p.31

    • @Glen
      Once again, the classical Christian presuppositional argument that automatically assumes there is a god, and endows this deity with a capital ‘G’ thus making it a pronoun, a further, subtle attempt at anthropomorphism.

      The establishment of this deity has never been made.
      Once you do this, then there will be no argument, will there?
      Oh ..hold on … we then have to figure out how the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth fits into all this don’t we?

      • Ark,

        And the classical atheist suppositional argument is to assume there is no God. SO?!?

        Common sense says that there is an intelligent being behind the origin of everything you see around you. But then, atheists aren’t known for their common sense.

        • No, it doesn’t.
          The response, I don’t know is perfectly acceptable as no evidence has been produced to the contrary.
          And getting from a ‘creator’ back to the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth is a feat I would LOVE to see you demonstrate.

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