Last Wednesday night, Hurray for the Riff Raff (Yosi Perlstein, resident fiddler) appeared on the 13th annual Americana Music Awards Show in Nashville. They performed “The Body Electric,” a cut on their latest CD, “Small Town Heroes.” “The Body Electric” should be mandatory listening in every locker room in the National Football League.
Alynda Lee Segarra sings, “And tell me what’s a man with a rifle in his hand gonna do for a world that’s so sick and sad? He’s gonna shoot me down, put my body in the river. Cover me up with the leaves of September.” This isn’t paranoia. Survey after survey demonstrates that millions of women suffer from domestic violence at some time in their lives.
The NFL’s response to domestic violence has been less than impressive. A number of players have been arrested for assaulting girl friends or wives, and the league has struggled to implement a meaningful policy. The case of running back Ray Rice, recently released by the Baltimore Ravens, has become notorious. A video from an Atlantic City casino shows Rice slugging his girlfriend (now wife) wife in an elevator and knocking her unconscious. “Gee, who knew?” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell virtually said. Yet a video released earlier and seen by the NFL shows Rice dragging his victim out of the elevator as if he was taking out the garbage. So how did Goodell think she got into that state?
Rice settled with legal authorities last May. When he completes a pretrial diversion program, third-degree aggravated assault charges will be dismissed. The NFL, with its zero-tolerance policy, later suspended Rice for two—count ‘em, two—games. Uproar followed. The Ravens felt the heat and cut Rice. He is appealing through the NFL Players Association.
The San Francisco 49ers face the same challenges. Defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested August 31, charged with assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. Citing due process alongside its own zero-tolerance policy, the Niners played McDonald in their first two games. Of course, they were missing another defensive end, Aldon Smith, their best pass rusher. Smith was suspended for nine games for weapons possession and a false bomb threat. This followed prior substance abuse. Other Niners players have problems, too, suggesting that individual player photos may now consist of mug shots.
Oh, and Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault against the mother of his 18-month-old child. Police said he head-butted his wife and broker her nose. This followed charges against Minnesota’s all-pro running back Adrian Peterson for beating his son. The Vikings decided to let Peterson play, heard the uproar that followed and suspended him with pay.
Yes, men in all walks of life hurt women and kids. But few corporations or groups are as visible as the NFL—or wave the flag and salute Mom and apple pie as publicly and piously.
So here’s a suggestion for the NFL: Forget the usual halftime show at this season’s Super Bowl. Hire Hurray for the Riff Raff and several other artists to sing about domestic violence. Pay them a decent fee. Then donate the savings on the bloated budget to organizations supporting women. Sometimes you have to put words to music before people hear them.
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