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.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.


  1. Ron Laupheimer on September 19, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I agree with your concern about the domestic violence issues in the NFL. It is a real problem that needs to be corrected as much as possible right away. Nevertheless, I want to point out one error in your Blog. Ray McDonald was arrested as required under the law whenever domestic violence charges are raised between parties. This apparently is an attempt to defuse a highly violent situation ASAP. However, McDonald has NOT been CHARGED with anything at this time. The police and DA are apparently still doing their investigations. (Apparently, others at the party are not supporting the alleged domestic violence charges raised by McDonald’s wife/fiancée, and the DA has not decided to prosecute as a result.) I feel this is a big difference from the other situations you describe. In those situations, the players had been charged and/or convicted. If McDonald is charged with some crime, I am fairly confident that McDonald will be suspended with pay, and if convicted, I believe the team will dump him.

    Again, I agree with your very legitimate concern about domestic violence and how it is out of hand both in the NFL AND society in general. Glad you discussed this issue today.

    • David on September 19, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      Ron: You should be staff attorney for my blog. Of course, I’m not passing on the guilt or innocence of any NFL player. I leave this to the courts. The league and its teams must judge the impact of any allegation, arrest or court decision on its credibility and ability to keep attracting fans and sponsors… and broadcast interest. But I believe that teams most value winning, whatever it takes. They often will keep a player active and on the field regardless of his transgressions. If fans don’t object, stars will play while reserves occasionally get thrown under the bus. If public outrage grows, only then will the league and its franchises take more serious action. I haven’t seen today’s news conference with Roger Goodell, but I believe he was addressing this issue. Still, this is America. As the legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi said (he said he meant to say it differently but it’s on the record): “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

  2. Carolyn Perlstein on September 19, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Fabulous idea to have Hurray for the Riff Raff play at halftime. It won’t happen, but it’s a great idea. And the song speaks to this issue in the most profound way.

  3. Sandy Lipkowitz on September 27, 2014 at 4:51 am

    I love the idea of Hurray for The Riff Raff being the half time entertainment.

    Also I disagree with Ron’s comments about Ray McDonald. I think he should be suspended until the case is settled. If a police officer is involved in an incident, they suspend him, with pay, until the investigation or case is finished. McDonald should be subject to the same treatment. I think the 49’ers are just worried about their standing with other players out. Makes them look really bad when other teams are stepping up to the plate. 1 in 3 women suffer from domestic violence and that affects their children too. Time to have zero tolerance for such aberrant behavior.

    • David on September 27, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      No question, the NFL and several franchises have not looked good. I agree that suspension with pay is not a guilty charge. The NFL definitely needs to come up with a league-wide policy so teams don’t make individual—and differing—decisions. Who knows? Players might become more careful in their relationships with women knowing that their careers can be affected.

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