NGSC Sports

Football Fabulosa – The N(o) F(emale) L(eague)

The National Football League has a female problem. NFL largely stands for N(o) F(emale) L(eague) particularly when it comes to violence against women. You could interchange sports in general and you wouldn’t be too far wrong but it’s come to the forefront in the NFL with the upcoming draft. Not to mention the latest news involving former NFL star and NFL Network analyst Darren Sharper along with the domestic battery charge against Ray Rice. Lastly let’s not forget Richie Incognito and his history of behavior toward women.

Consider the recent news that Roger Goodell wants to eliminate the use of the “N” word in the sport. I have often written about the impact of words and we have to be careful with usage but the rule is completely unworkable and impacts largely black players who use the word with each other. Its an attempt for the league to manipulate public perception and show it’s concerned over the Richie Incognito bullying scandal.

In case you needed more proof the league is more concerned over the use of the “N” word than violence against women let’s consider the NFL Draft. One of the big topics of discussion in this year’s draft revolves around character, commitment and effect on draft value. I’m talking of course about Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney among others.

Let’s consider infamous draft scout and noted character evaluator Nolan Nawrocki. In his list of players with known character issues he cited several players. For one well known and highly considered prospect he said he “carries a sense of entitlement and prima-donna arrogance seeking out the bright lights of Hollywood.”

That prospect is Johnny Manziel who has garnered a lot of attention for off the field issues consisting largely of heavy partying with well known celebrities. His main legal issue was being involved in an NCAA investigation over possible autograph selling. He was suspended for half a game.

Nawrocki also called former Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard a guy with “a quirky personality, inflated opinion of his ability and carries a sense of entitlement that could be difficult to manage and require a patient positional coach.” Hubbard has no known off the field issues and many remain mystified over where the allegations originate.

Another guy with so called entitlement issues is Florida defensive end Ronald Powell who Nawrocki said “entitlement was an issue as a young player.” Hubbard has no known off the field issues and many wonder where that statment is coming from as well.

Among the list of possible NFL draft picks who doesn’t make Nawrocki’s problem list is former Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan. In 2009, Lewan’s roommate and fellow Michigan football player Brandon Gibson was accused of raping an acquaintance. When the alleged victim reported the incident she began to receive threats. Lewan reportedly threatened her with rape if she went through with the prosecution. You can find the disgusting details here.

Gibson was ultimately kicked off the team. The FBI announced earlier this week they are investigating Michigan’s handling of the possible crime. It wasn’t Lewan’s only trouble however. In 2013 Lewan was accused of assault after the Michigan vs Ohio State game. He predictably has denied both incidents occurred.

Also missing from the list is former Florida Gator and Tennessee State alumnus AC Leonard. Leonard was arrested for domestic assault back in February of 2012. He was charged with misdemeanor battery after a woman alleged he shoved her, dragged her by her hair and threw her out of their Gainesville apartment. He would be suspended by the team and later transfer. He later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge.

There is a pathetic lack of attention paid to players with a history of violence against women when it comes to coverage of the draft. Manziel has character concerns because he partied a lot and may have sold his autograph for some extra money. Hubbard and Powell have character concerns over what appears to be wanting more playing time (shocking I know).

Guys like Lewan and Leonard? They seem to be completely acceptable in a league that doesn’t value women.

Consider also how little the league seems to care about the recent rash of reports of violence against women. The modus operandi remains the same as the league continues to exhibit complete and utter disregard for how women are treated and viewed by athletes. The silence is deafening.

To be sure Darren Sharper has been suspended from his cushy job at the NFL Network while the charges continue to accumulate. Although as Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk points out he inexplicably has not been fired. The comments from Sharper’s former teammates are particularly telling. Sharper, the player who treated women terribly, was considered a leader in the locker room. Even more evidence the NFL largely views women as sexual toys.

Dave Zirin at The Nation wrote a column today where he talks about these very issues. When Jevon Belcher killed his girlfriend and mother of his then 3 month old daughter the issue of domestic violence, and how women are treated, surfaced for a minute. ESPN’s Jemele Hill weighed in with a good look at the continuing staggering numbers of violence against women by their current or former partners and how little dialogue continues on the issue. Sadly, not much has changed.

Ray Rice is expected to play for the Baltimore Ravens this year. His coach John Harbaugh didn’t appear terribly concerned about the incident. Many teammates came out in support of Rice. In fairness Rice has always seemed like a good guy. Appearances can be deceiving especially where little effort is made to eradicate an environment where women largely aren’t valued.

Rice isn’t the only Ravens player to make his views on women known. In a twitter moment he has now tried to distance himself from Marlon Brown, who has a history of charming tweets on women, posted a tweet he has now deleted telling his female followers to unfollow him if they had a boyfriend because he didn’t have anything in common with them. Julie DiCaro wrote this good piece on this incident and how the NFL has a female problem.

I was already working on this column and then this article from Connor Barwin was posted over at the Sports Illustrated website run by Peter King called The MMQB where locker room “antics” are routinely dismissed as “boys being boys.” It’s no coincidence that Barwin’s article was written for and posted on King’s website.

This part of Barwin’s article is what particularly set me off.

conner barwin

That part of Barwin’s article suggests that NFL players are somehow different. Special. ENTITLED. It’s a tired refrain though not without some basis in how domestic violence by athletes often get swept under the rug. The NFL’s general attitude toward women has a long and misogynist history so that blurb in Barwin’s article is no real surprise.

In fairness the rest of the article was quite good. Unfortunately it got buried behind the suggestion the NFL is a good ole boys club where women aren’t welcome. This is our home where boys can be boys. Women are welcome in our beds but not in our sport.

The argument that locker rooms are special was long used to deny women the opportunity to cover professional football. That it is still being used to justify inhumane treatment toward others is shameful. Perhaps its time for NFL players to take a good long look in the mirror. Maybe the problem really is you.

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