Living near Seattle is an absolute trial for someone as indifferent to football as I am. Before this past summer, I had never heard of Ray Rice and I didn’t know Baltimore had a football team. But suddenly I know these things. I would not ordinarily consider commenting on football, but knowing absolutely nothing about domestic violence has not stopped sports commentators from weighing in.
Contrary to what you might expect, I am not a fan of player suspensions for the same reason that I am not a big fan of the criminal justice system. Ejecting people from sports or from our communities and throwing them away in prisons doesn’t actually work that well. Ask a bunch of survivors if you don’t believe me.
How about turning these non-consequential consequences on their heads? Rather than throwing people away, how about we try the opposite: pulling them closer?
Instead of suspending players, put them into “suspended animation” that looks something like this:
- Take away their salaries and send the money to organizations that work to counter the wrong they’ve committed.
- Have the player sit on the bench at each game during their suspended animation wearing a T-shirt that reads “I’m sitting here thinking about why I’m not in the game.”
- When the player has a clear idea about what they did wrong, allow them to call their entire team to hear them out. The team’s job, to a man, is to fire up and fine tune their bullsh*t meter and judge what the player has to say.
- No matter how long it takes, the team keeps the player on the team (and among them) and only when the entire team’s meters fall into the “I believe you really get the wrong you did” zone, can the player be reinstated.
I floated this idea to some people who responded, essentially: “Yeah, right. Teams will just close ranks, slap a lot of backs, and let the dude off because it could be them tomorrow. Even if all the bullsh*t meters are smoking from being so far into the crap zone, the guy will be playing the very next week.”
I was disappointed by how little faith my friends had in men’s ability to step up. That is, men’s willingness to hold one another accountable with real integrity. The bar for men’s involvement in ending violence against women has been so low for so long that we’ve practically given up on the idea.
But that has got to change. I felt vindicated by the ads that the NFL aired on Thanksgiving. They actually showed some men (who I assume are well-known football players) in full screen looking not just uncomfortable, but positively vulnerable.
So okay then. Men have raised the bar a half inch. After the football season’s over, will more men step up and help build and maintain momentum here?
Men, thanks for supporting No More. Now do more.