Domestic abuse in the NFL: beyond Ray Rice


Many fans still chose to wear Adrian Peterson jerseys on September 14, after Peterson’s abuse came to light (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

Staff Writer
Throughout the National Football League (NFL), domestic violence has been a major issue surrounding players. The majority of people want the players who have committed violent acts to be harshly punished with both suspensions and fines. A handful of players have already been suspended for their disturbing actions off the field. The most popular case, Ray Rice’s, has led to the termination of his contract with the Baltimore Ravens and his indefinite suspension from  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Following the actions taken against Ray Rice, many other players have been suspended indefinitely because of accusations of domestic violence and child abuse. Dealing with these issues is tough because they are often sensitive and are some of the most controversial topics in sports. Goodell is under an immense amount of pressure after the controversy concerning the Ray Rice incident, and will be criticized if he does not make the correct decision or appropriately act on it.
Running back of the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson, was indicted in September for reckless injury to a child. He was accused of hitting his 4-year old son with a tree branch as a form of “discipline”, causing severe bleeding and cuts all over his son’s body. Peterson’s lawyer stated that he never intended to cause serious harm to his child and was using the same disciplinary actions Peterson experienced growing up. TMZ Sports released graphic photos of his son’s body with multiple cuts on the boy’s legs and hands. These images disturbed the public, ultimately leading to his removal from a single Vikings game, and his name on the Commissioner’s exempt list. The exempt list prevents players from participating in any of the team’s activities until the situation with the player has been resolved. Peterson will most likely sit out for the remainder of the 2014-2015 season.
Greg Hardy, defensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers, is a key player on the Panther’s defensive line. He was convicted in July for assault of a female and communicating threats in May; he was accused of attacking his then-girlfriend and threatening to kill her out of rage. The Panthers are unsure of Hardy’s future with the team. Following the Adrian Peterson incident, the Panthers decided to place Hardy on the exempt list as well, suspending him indefinitely until the case is resolved.
Another NFL player, running back Jonathan Dwyer of the Arizona Cardinals, was arrested in September for supposedly assaulting his wife and harming his son. Investigators have said that Dwyer broke his wife’s nose with a head-butt during an argument in July and then punched her and threw a shoe at his 17 month old son. He was initially accused of aggravated assault on his son, but  was not indicted on that allegation. Dwyer’s arrest occurred after the incidents involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy. The Cardinals placed Dwyer on the reserve/non-football illness list, meaning he will not play again this season.
These violent actions are disturbing and cannot be justified. This kind of crime off the field is becoming a huge issue for the NFL. The NFL front office’s handling of sensitive issues like these are closely monitored and judged by the public and media. Domestic violence is a serious issue,  and the commissioner will be under heavy fire depending on how he deals with present and future domestic violence cases involving the players. Domestic violence does not belong in the NFL with the great amount of people who despise it. These players are playing in the highest level of football and are expected to act like professional athletes and ethical people on and off the field. Many irresponsible players are parents and highly paid, but still commit these crimes. There are no excuses for crimes like this even if the player has grown up in a “bad” area when they were younger. Parents are allowed to discipline their children, but they should only do so in a non-violent way.
These NFL players are role models to many young kids, and violent crimes only taint their image and reputation. The NFL must tighten up its domestic violence policies before the issue worsens and becomes a permanent headline for the league.