On December 1st, Kansas City Chiefs' linebacker, Jovan Belcher, killed Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their 3 month old daughter. He then drove to the Chiefs training facility and killed himself. While much of the media has talked about Belcher’s suicide, there has been little mainstream attention on the murder of Kasandra. And even less attention given to the true issue here: domestic violence.
There are 32 NFL teams in the league and 21 of those teams have players who have at some point in time faced domestic assault or sexual assault charges. Kansas City Chiefs' former running back, Larry Johnson, was arrested in October for choking his girlfriend. Miami Dolphins' receiver Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson was arrested in August for headbutting his wife. In March, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was accused of punching a woman in the face outside of a nightclub.
The list is long. And something has to change.
These high profile cases give the NFL the opportunity to do more. In July, the NFL established LifeLine -- a program for players, coaches, team and staff in crisis. And Comissioner Roger Goodell started a “mental health initiative” for players, staff and coaches. But it remains unclear if these new programs have had impact. Under current rules, the NFL has the ability to fine or suspend any player facing charges that relate to domestic assault.
1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Reports of domestic violence increase by 10% during the last hour of an NFL game, and continue for a couple of hours when an NFL team has lost a game it was expected to win; when a team loses to a rival team, reports increase by 17%. This isn’t just about the NFL, it’s about all of us.
I work with families in domestic violence situations as a child therapist at The House of Ruth Maryland, Inc. And I know first-hand that real healing can only begin with counseling and interventions that get to the core of the problem -- not with fines or suspensions.
That’s why I’m asking Roger Goodell to go further in his attempts to help his players, the league and the families affected by domestic violence in the NFL.
I urge Mr. Goodell to review the policy to include the ability to require players convicted of charges related to domestic violence to receive the appropriate counseling. I know that this type of counseling (often referred to as abuser interventions) is available throughout the country and that Mr. Goodell could make this change.
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