Blog, Media + Politics

The NFL’s Crisis Is Just Beginning: No Easy End in Sight

Originally posted September 23, 2014 on the Huffington Post

If past crises are any guide, then the NFL’s crisis is just beginning. The appointment of four women to help set policies and procedures for domestic violence is an admirable and necessary first step, but it will not get at the underlying conditions that have made domestic violence and child abuse major crises waiting to happen.

Time and again, the field of crisis management has shown that “crises just don’t happen.” All crises are the result of a set of underlying conditions that have been allowed to fester for way too long. Because they have mostly been ignored, and therefore not given proper attention, they’ve not only grown, but made the present crises a virtual certainty. Unless the full set of conditions is faced and dealt with, the present crisis will not only continue, but even worse, it will set off an uncontrolled chain reaction of other crises. (The NFL has already seen major sponsors threaten to pull out proving that NO crisis is EVER a single, well contained, and isolated crisis.)

It’s time for the NFL — indeed all sports — to face up to the fact that violence cannot be limited to game days alone. It’s sheer fantasy to believe that one can engage in an occupation where violence is prominent aspect of it, and worse yet, is glorified, and not have violence spill over into all the other parts of one’s life. Humans have never been good at compartmentalizing the so-called separate parts of their lives.

It’s also sheer fantasy to believe that those who have been idolized their whole lives, treated as major celebrities, have repeatedly gotten away with minor and major infractions, make tons of money, have not completed their education or have received little, come from disadvantaged backgrounds often filled with violence, etc., and that all of these factors and more will not combine to exacerbate violence on and off the field. In short, unless football and other sports are reconfigured radically, the violence will only escalate. To say that this will not be easy because the league and the public will fight it mightily is putting it mildly.

In short, the violence in every sport has to be scaled back. The emphasis needs to be on grace, style, and skill.

Of course, attitudes on and off the field also need to change radically. The fact that one was “whipped” as a child does not make it acceptable to beat one’s children. Child abuse is child abuse no matter what it’s called!

If I were the commissioner of any sport, then I’d take what’s happened in the NFL as a gigantic wake up call. What is there to believe that the same set of conditions are not festering in any other sport?

Firing Roger Goodell may feel good. It may even help in the short run, but firing the coach will not fix what’s fundamentally wrong with the team in the long run.

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