Football Suspension Musings…



Of late, I’ve been reading (and listening) to the many varied viewpoints about the recent decision by the NFL to suspend anyone within the organization who has been charged and/or convicted of domestic violence. Being a survivor of childhood abuse (plus relationship domestic violence as a younger adult) this is one headline that I’ve definitely been paying attention to.
I must admit though, I’ve found some of the public’s reactions to be shocking; not to mention offensive. However, I choose to believe that this is mainly due to ignorance versus a mean-spirited attitude. This is why I’ve also chosen to provide some insights regarding abuse.
In watching as this NFL story further unfolds, the first thing I noticed is an immense irritation from quite a few football fans with regard to the indefinite suspension of Ray Rice. I certainly acknowledge the frustration these individuals feel over the two game suspension ruling; which later turned into an indefinite suspension while Rice’s case pends further review by the league. And of course, let’s not forget the deactivation of Adrian Peterson (with pay) until his “legal proceedings are resolved.”
Yet I cannot understand the reasoning behind other of the public’s complaints.  In certain cases it seems that an individual is only upset because his/her favorite football team is now not doing well, or because his/her Fantasy Football team just took the equivalent of a huge nosedive off the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
In all honesty, I, too, am a huge football fan – a fan of the game itself. And that, right there, is the thing that throws me for a loop…
Football is a game. Abuse is a life.
I completely understand that to the suspended player, football is a game – as well as the way in which he makes the money for his life. However, it is also the abuser’s decision to be an abuser and not the victim’s.
No girl-friend, fiancée, spouse or ‘significant other’ ever starts her day out by saying:
“Honey, it’s that time of the month, so if I get moody and bitchy would you just knock me out?”
No child ever says to the parent(s), or guardian(s):
“My bruises are all gone, but I quite liked the purplish-green color of them. Would you mind getting upset and beating the crap out of me today?”
Ludicrous statements aren’t they? And yet when I read some of the ignorant commentary, that’s exactly what I think. I’m certain that other abuse survivors must have similar thoughts.
So, let’s talk for a moment about why women stay with abusive men. From the outside looking in, one can speculate a myriad of reasons. I wonder though how many actually hit upon any of the ‘real’ reasons…
(Please note: there are relationships where women abuse men. While I’m certain that their reasons for staying are similar, or the same, for ease of typing/reading, I will discuss the female victim/male abuser dynamic versus using a steady stream of him/her, her/him and him or her, etc. combined references).
Robert Plutchik theorizes that there are eight ‘basic’ human emotions: joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise and anticipation. Much like a primary color wheel, these eight emotions can be spun around and mixed together to form additional, and more complex, emotions such as: love or contempt.
I liken most abusive relationships to being a trifecta of the following powerful emotions/motivators: joy + trust which equals: love, either anger or disgust, and anticipation + joy which equals: optimism (aka hope).
Continuing on to my point, most people are certainly aware that there are those who pretend to be someone, or something, they’re not in the start of a relationship; in order to win the other person’s love or affections.
And what is one of the most common statements made by the neighbors, friends and/or family members of serial killers?
“Oh, but he was such a nice person!”
In other words we, the chosen ‘romantic interest,’ can have no inkling because he (the abuser) has learned how to hide this personality aspect from view. When the monster (that is domestic violence) finally does arise from the depths, we are floored. We are hurt; both physically and mentally and we don’t understand.
But the kicker of it – is that we now love this person. It also doesn’t help matters when the abuser comes to us crying and ashamed over his actions.
“I’m so sorry!” we are told.
“It will never happen again!” we are vehemently promised.
And so the powerful emotions of joy, trust and anticipation combine within our minds and we choose to believe… (Or, we have been continuously threatened and now fear for our lives).
The other thing that I don’t think the general, non-abusive public realizes – is just how charming and believable an abuser is. (“Oh, but he was such a nice person!” is also the same comment made by neighbors, friends and family members when the hidden horrors of abuse have been revealed).
Yes, we the victims will generally (eventually) leave this bad-for-us-situation (after all, self-preservation is an ingrained survival instinct), but remember that people can only leave these situations at their own pace (or the pace that is allowed by society).
As a child I ran away for the first time at age twelve; again several months later. Society can never knowingly allow a minor that young to live in a world unattended; consequently I was always returned to my parents. Finally, upon seeing physical signs of abuse, Child Protective Services was contacted; yet my parents still had the ability to disappear into the woods – effectively falling off the ‘grid.’
At age fifteen, I again reached out to law enforcement for help; seeking to escape from a life of almost daily abuse. Sadly, even with the eyewitness account of an incident that involved my father hitting me with a professional grade cordless Makita drill, l was still returned to my parents. And again, we picked up and disappeared…
Is it any wonder that my love relationship life began with abusive men? How many other women have become involved in an abusive relationship for the very same reason?
Once, while still embroiled in an abusive love relationship, I was asked why I stayed when the guy would physically hurt me. Didn’t I see it was wrong of him? The combination of this woman’s questions made it click for me.
Coming from a household of abuse as a child, the subconscious ‘warning’ signs meant to alert me to the wrongness of abuse/domestic violence were damaged to the point of being non-existent. Furthermore, how could something be ‘wrong’ when it was the accepted mainstay of the first sixteen-and-a-half years of my life?
Do not prejudge the woman living with the abuser – she may be just as horrified as you. Instead, try to offer her hope (and the knowledge) that there can be a better life for her; one without the tribulations of abuse.
Do not feel sorry for the abuser – when he, or she, is an abuser by choice. Do not ‘justify’ their actions. Instead, embrace them with whatever support they need/require to seek help. Be there for them while they work out (and overcome) whatever demons and/or life choices put them on this hurtful and oft destructive path.
Finally, never fault the many individuals who come together and put their collective feet down in order to declare:
“Enough is enough!”
“There will be repercussions for the inhumane actions/treatment of others!”
And, since I’m being honest with you, the young child in me (the one who had no one to protect her) was ever so grateful to learn of the NFL’s new ‘no tolerance for domestic violence’ stance.
Our world continues to move forward into more ‘enlightened’ times. As we do, one of the tenets of this ‘new’ world is the need to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
We should also remember that these abusive actions are found within many different fields; in some instances, right down to the law enforcement officials we entrust to protect us.
Religious teachings aside, each of us knows ‘deep down’ that domestic abuse/violence against others is wrong.
When exactly did we begin to revert to the more prehistoric time of the caveman – where physical strength and intimidation were the tools for survival and leadership? We would do well to remember that it takes much more than just opposable thumbs and the ‘ability’ to reason for humanity to evolve.
And … for those of you who still can’t, or won’t, understand the detriment of domestic violence? Let’s look at this in a different light. Put yourself forty years into the future – imagine if the woman knocked unconscious and then dragged from an elevator was your daughter. Mommy or daddy’s ‘little girl’ and the light of your life… How about your granddaughter?
Mayhap then (with this vision) we can stop the sometimes cavalier attitude about the epidemic that is domestic violence; not to mention the actual injustice of the crime.
And perhaps then, obviously ignorant and callous statements such as: “Obviously it’s not that bad because she’s still with him” will be a thing of the past.


Charline Ratcliff is a writer, reviewer, and interviewer. Some of her interests include: travel, learning about other cultures (past and present), and enjoying the beauty of nature. She also strives to help others by sharing her personal experiences; seeking to raise awareness, and to provide hope to those who feel there is none.



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8 thoughts on “Football Suspension Musings…

  1. Kenneth Weene

    Abuse in a relationship is wrong, and those who abuse others should face the consequences. Those who are abused should be helped to find safety (assuming they want to).

    I also have issues with football (American, that is) for leading a culture of war and violence. Yes, it has become the “national sport” and as such encourages the whole warfare culture of America. In the process, it brings about a number of head injuries which are likely to dis-inhibit and therefore make violent outbursts more likely.

    All that said, I am not sure that there should be a connection between a sports player’s behavior in the rest of his/her life and their employment. Put the SOB in jail; I have no problem with that; he committed assault. But what has that to do with football playing? Oh, if somebody is paying him to endorse products, I can see his behavior as a reason to break that contract; he has lost luster in the public eye, but it no more impacts his ability to play football than the possible behaviors that he was with a hooker or cheated at cards: just not relevant.

  2. Trish Jackson

    Charline, what a great post. There can never be enough people who speak up against abuse. Unfortunately, big money of the kind that is found in professional sports seems to take precedence over common human decency. Being an animal advocate, I am also disgusted at the fact that Michael Vick is back and playing professional football as if his two years in prison was enough to compensate for being involved with dog fighting, where they use little dogs as bait to be torn apart by dogs whose fate it is to fight and win (or lose) money for their owners. Sadly, I don’t think the tolerance of abuse in professional sports is going to change any time soon, but we can only continue to speak out against it.

  3. John B. Rosenman

    Charline, this is a relevant and much needed post. Yes, we’re getting better, and you’re quite right that we should not minimize the offense just because the victim (usually a woman) remains with the abuser. “Well, it can’t be so bad because she’s still with him.” Hey, of course it’s so bad. She grew up knowing nothing else, so how can she be capable of judging? I too am disgusted or somewhat disgusted about Michael Vick being let back in. Yes, I believe in redemption and forgiveness. And I knew he grew up with that culture. OTOH, couldn’t he see the agony of those dogs, sense the ABUSE?

    As for what Ken says, I’m inclined to disagree with him when he says, “I am not sure that there should be a connection between a sports player’s behavior in the rest of his/her life and their employment. . . . what has that to do with football playing?” Well, like it or not, professional football players are prominent role models, and impressionable young people and others often emulate their bad behavior. While they may not be legally punished for their bad behavior, I can see that league officials have a responsibility to set minimal standards and penalties up to and including expulsion.” What is that old quotation? “To whom much is given, much is expected.

    Have to say, your fine essay reminds me of Mamie Adkins’ unforgettable autobiography Reflections of Mamie, which also deals with child abuse.

  4. James Secor

    These phenomenally talented athletes for the most part grew up in “the hood” where violence was de rigueur.Their behavior has been excused and pushed under the table in high school, college and the pros because they were good–and good for money. They never learned responsibility for their actions. And so they continue their “hood” behavior. The NFL’s problem–and the NBA’s–is compounded because nothing was done for so long and now the handling of the problem has been screwed up royally. There should be no worry about losing money when these guys are sent up, as there are so very many athletes who could be playing but are not because of monopolistic greed. I have a friend who thinks that if this kind of behavior continues, the NFL might just become a white man’s game. That would be sad.

  5. Martha Love

    What an excellent article, Charline! My thought is that we have absolutely got to face up to the fact as a nation of human beings that we desperately need emotional intelligence taught in the schools to everyone, just like math and science. Cut backs have long ago axed counseling in public schools (as well as art and many other humanities). Frankly, over the decades, I have seen money appropriated to public schools taken from much needed personal counseling and self-psychology classes and spent on building newer and bigger sports arenas, both football and basketball. Pointing it out just gets the one who tries to make positive changes and put things into a balance to be in huge trouble (I speak from experience having lost 2 teaching jobs for challenging the administration on that very thing). We desperately need to educate our children on emotional issues of life far above football or any other academic subject. Yet, emotional well being is cast aside as if it is not important to teach our children.
    I feel sports are important, don’t get me wrong, but we are so out of balance in our educational priorities. I was horrified once at the shouting parents in the stands of a public school soccer game, as they yelled things like “kill him”. Competitive sports for children crosses over into abuse very easily when the adults teach aggression.
    How much abuse could be stopped if we had self psychology classes all through the grade and high schools and into college like we do math, history, language arts, and other academic subjects? If we are going to make changes to this rampart abuse issue, we need to start with funding the disciplines that deal with these issues in our schools. I applaud all people who are trying to educate others in what ever way they can as to the huge problem we have with abuse and how to begin to look inwardly on an emotional level for both abuser and abused. Thank you for this post, Charline.

  6. Micki Peluso

    Charline, this is an excellent and much needed treatise on abuse–in sports and everywhere. It has always been my own personal feeling–and it may not be a popular one— that some people from childhood on and for diverse reasons are prone to vilolence and the need to inflict it upon others by bullying , spousal abuse, rape, etc. I also feel that many of these people choose to join sports that have an outlet for the pent up violence in them–especially rough sports like football, hockey, soccer and boxing. Fot normal people it’s a fun game. I also believe that those prone to an inner violence within them that needs an outlet join the military for the same reason. I qualify this with no lack of respect for our men and women in the serviuce who willingly put their lives in danger for the protection of loved ones and country. My own grandsons are among them. Others might join mercenary groups or become criminals to fulfill that innate need for violence. Only by weeding out these individuals and geting them the help they need to deal with their inner violence can we keep our sports a respected and fun game.

  7. Linda Hales

    Special thanks to Charline for her outstanding, well written and honest article. This topic is more timely than ever and the opportunity for the media and the education system to rise to the occasion is ‘out there’ now for all to see. No more should these ill behaviors be hidden behind closed doors. Let us hope that this topic is not just the ‘hot potato’ of the day simply because it has reared it’s ugly head in the narrow realm of that so-called “glorious’ game of football.

    We’ve learned that abuse is often generational and I mean all forms of abuse…physical, sexual, emotional, to both human beings and animal life. We’ve also learned that these abuses occur in all cultures, economies and walks of life. This rings true and so it is disingenuous to relegate blame to one dimension of our culture, being sports, namely football, when it is everywhere geographically and in all walks of life.

    That said, professional sports and I mean ALL professional sports…football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. would do well to incorporate a mandate of ‘professional behavior’ into their contracts and mission statements or at least expand their existing one. No violence or abuse of any nature should be tolerated on the field or off and that must address issues of performance enhancement drugs, drugs in general, in-game fighting, abuse in relationships etc. The contract is to play the game with integrity and to be role models for society, most especially for children. I agree with John that sports figures have a moral responsibility toward their supporters, children in particular, who regrettably, consider professional athletes to be ‘heroes’, as inappropriate as that may be, when in fact, sports figures are simple human beings from various walks of life, some more privileged than others. I would advocate a one-time only mandatory treatment program and if unsuccessful, the player is dismissed…no ifs, ands or buts. Society must not reward the perpetrator who victimizes others for any reason and what better place to begin than in the public eye.

    Abusive behavior is not limited to typical forms of spousal and child abuse. The over indulged child can be just as likely to require anger management training if not corrected at an early age. All too often we hear of violent acts being perpetrated because of being denied instant gratification…witness road rage or the ‘give it to me or I’ll’ (fill in the blanks) type response.

    It appears that football now has a noble opportunity to take the ball and run with it!


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