I don't often use my business blog as soapbox, but it seems appropriate today.
I didn’t watch last night’s Pittsburgh-Baltimore game, even though it’s almost always a great tilt. The Rice-Roethlisberger marquee pointed too directly at the NFL’s longstanding problems with violence toward women.
Don’t think skipping the game was an easy decision. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting at my daddy’s knee watching the football game (when there was only one) every Sunday. In the five decades since, I’ve watched as many games as possible each week, and even stood by the NFL in the face of all manner of unpleasantness and bad behavior. But this year has been a test. Between the owner of my favorite team and his steadfast refusal to change a truly offensive name, to the unbelievably poor judgment and astonishing ethical and moral lapse surrounding the Ray Rice fiasco, I actually considered turning away from the game I’ve spent my life loving.
But I know in my heart that even if a slew of us stops watching, enough of us still will. A boycott will have little impact.
I’m writing this letter because instead of leaving the NFL, I want to help drive its reformation. To help it become the league that does the most to prevent and punish domestic violence. That’s what my dad would want me to do.
So here are a couple of ideas. First, if the NFL really wants to show its commitment to women, augment the pink this October with purple. That’s the color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which also falls in the 10th month. Allocate a portion of the League’s budget toward prevention and intervention within the NFL and among its fans. One month of turning it purple won’t stop the epidemic, but it’s a high-profile first step on the NFL’s way to becoming a more powerful activist for the well-being of women.
Next, the League should convene an advisory group charged with creating and executing new domestic violence policies and undertaking advocacy and outreach. The group should be populated with women and men, straight and gay--experts in intervention and prevention; current and past owners and players, and their significant others; professional advocates and communicators; and fans and survivors. I meet the last three of those criteria, and I offer today my assistance and experience to the Commissioner and the League.
The NFL is one of the most powerful and influential sports leagues on the planet. Let’s leverage that to make the world a safer place for domestic partners. Let’s start today.