The Football Feminist

hot-pink-stiletto-cleat1It is an interesting dichotomy to work for a women’s foundation and be a football fan these days. How to do you resolve the desire to support and empower women with a passion for a game where many involved are marginalizing women and condoning behavior that harms women?

In a staff meeting, this past week, I was asked my opinion on this, knowing I am someone who just returned from the Season Opener in Mile High Stadium, went to Super Bowl XXXXVIII, and just named her new car after her favorite player Champ Bailey.

Well, I defended the NFL, and no, I do not think Roger Goodell handled the Ray Rice situation appropriately. And no, I do not think the behavior we are seeing is anything new. I just think the pervasiveness of technology has made it easier to get caught and exposed.

But, I also don’t think the behavior of a few warrants a mass generalization about the players and the game, no that leap to judgment would be flawed and in the words of my fellow fans in Mile High an IN-COM-PLETE analysis of the situation we find ourselves in today.

My childhood memories are filled with going to the games on the weekend, these players were my heroes, my role models and frankly father figures as the child of a single mother. As I grew older in my predominantly African-American low-income neighborhood, I began to understand the power of the opportunity these athletes had that could lift them out of lives of poverty, low-income futures or even a life of incarceration (NAACP, 2014).

Check the facts: the prospects for most African-American men in this country are pretty dismal and they represent the majority of players in the league. Football is a way out and a path to college education for many, even those that don’t go on to play professionally.

The often unheard of or uncelebrated contributions these players make to their own foundations, community programs, schools and other charitable organizations we hear little about (Bleacher Report, 2014). Then, there is the sacrifice of their health, brain injuries and the like, or alone just the down right hard work it takes to go out there week after week and get beat to a pulp for our entertainment.

I understand more than most about the issue of domestic violence. My mothers best friend was shot five times a point-blank range in the face by her abusive husband when I was just eight years old. I remember the pain of my mother explaining how that could happen and rationalizing to me why he would only go to prison on a four-year work release. So I get it! It is one of the many life experiences that calls me to do the work on behalf of women.

Here’s the thing: I think domestic violence is a global problem, a national problem, not just an NFL problem. The NFL however now has a window of opportunity to leverage the mistakes that they made and effectuate changes for the league in addition to raising awareness of the issue to one of the broadest audiences in our country, as the most popular and widely watched sport in the country (ESPN, 2014). I believe they will do the right thing, and for that reason I will continue to be a fan, go to games and continue my work as a women’s advocate, who said you have to choose?

References:

Bleacher Report (2014) The Most Charitable Players in the NFL.  Last Retrieved at:http://bleacherreport.com/articles/919472-the-most-charitable-players-in-the-nfl

ESPN (2014) Harris Poll: NFL most popular 30th year n a row. Last Retrieved at:http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/10354114/harris-poll-nfl-most-popular-mlb-2nd

NAACP (2014) Fact Sheet, Last retrieved at:http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet

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