I’m not much of a football writer. I’m not even a big football fan. But this isn’t an article about football; it’s about humanity and morality. Or rather, the NFL’s apparent lack of both.
This week, Jameis Winston received a 3-game suspension for allegedly groping his female Uber driver while intoxicated. He didn’t admit guilt, but he did ‘blame the a-a-a-alcohol.’ The investigation seemingly “concluded that Winston violated the Personal Conduct Policy by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.”*
Meanwhile, Julian Edelman received a 4-game suspension earlier this month for violating the league’s PEDs rules, testing positive for an unidentified substance.
So, to be clear: the NFL, and more specifically Roger Goodell, who says “domestic violence and sexual assault… are illegal… never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances” actually care more about punishing athletes who voluntarily mess with their own bodies than the ones who violate other people’s bodies.
Women make up a strong 35% of NFL viewership. I grew up watching football with my father. More of my girlfriends are football fans than baseball fans.
If I had a dollar for every time a friend of mine told me a story about being harassed or abused by a man, I’d be a very rich woman. Personally, I’ve lost count of the times something has happened to me. I’ve been catcalled. I’ve been sexually harassed at work. I’ve been groped enough times to make me never want to go to a nightclub ever again. When I was in college, I was briefly in a relationship that turned abusive.
Even one of those bad experiences should be one too many, but I’ve just recounted an entire list. Similarly, Jameis Winston has already been the subject of multiple sexual assault cases. And yet the NFL says they’ll only consider banning him if he does something else. According to their own Personal Conduct Policy, anyone who does what Jameis Winston did should be suspended without pay for at least six games. Last time I checked, three is a lot less than six. It’s also less than Edelman’s four.
The only part of this punishment I actually agree with is the NFL requiring Winston undergo a clinical evaluation and “fully cooperate” with whatever therapy program is recommended. That’s absolutely the right call, since Winston has clearly shown pathologically abusive behavior towards women; this was not an isolated incident.
But Winston also hid this most recent incident from the league for over a year, and the NFL only found out about it from a Buzzfeed article. Hiding the incident is apparently an additional violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, and would also constitute disciplinary action. Furthermore, when the story was made public, Winston lied about the details of the incident.
All in all, this is a disappointing and disgusting look for the NFL. By not giving him an adequate suspension, they’re proving for what feels like the umpteenth time that they don’t care about honesty, personal safety, or women’s rights, to name a few things. They have no conviction to uphold their own policy, which is already too lax.
As these stories pile up, women will lose patience, and the NFL will lose a large chunk of its fan base. They might tolerate this kind of behavior, but we definitely won’t.
Photo: Bucs Nation
*Quotes via SB Nation