It has been said that there’s no such thing as ethical consumption in a capitalistic society. For many fans of the National Football League, that notion has never resonated more than it does today. A number of NFL players, like many men in power, treat women as objects. They harass. They abuse. They rape. That part isn’t new. The NFL doesn’t care about women. That part isn’t new either.
What is new, is that in this era of #METOO and social media leading to more awareness, the NFL and its players can no longer hide. If a player has assaulted a girlfriend or a trainer, we’ll find out eventually. Their rape victim will come forward. It’s been happening now for years, and it will continue. And I hope that as more women come forward with their stories, the NFL, its fans, and the media, will handle the situation better than they have thus far.
Before Tyreke Hill entered the league, he almost strangled his pregnant girlfriend to death. Most recently, he broke the arm of the child she was carrying, and was caught on tape threatening her, declaring that she should be afraid of him. The NFL has decided that because Hill is a talented receiver who plays with reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes on the Chiefs, there is a place for him the league.
Former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was caught on tape shoving and kicking a woman in a hotel lobby. The Chiefs were quick to release him last season, but the Browns were eager to add the talented running back to their team this past offseason. Hunt will serve an 8 game suspension, return to NFL action in week 9, score some points for fantasy football owners, and all will be forgiven. What Hunt did was despicable, but you have to assume the only reason he’s even serving a suspension at all is because the video footage leaked to the public. When Ray Rice was caught on tape dragging and beating his fiancé in an elevator, NFL commissioner Rodger Gooddell knew about the tape, but still didn’t discipline Rice until after the tape was made public. The NFL doesn’t care about women, but they’d love you for you to think that they do.
Most recently, star wide receiver Antonio Brown was accused of two counts of sexual assault and one count of rape. Men in the media will be quick to point out that his accuser did not file a police report, but rather a civil lawsuit. Brown’s camp claims he’s being extorted. And while that’s certainly a possibility, I have no interest in supporting this man until he can prove his innocence. At the very least, he’s guilty of sending his accuser gross and threading emails in which he seems to corroborate the assaults in question. As I am writing this, Brown is set to start his first game for his newest team, the New England Patriots. The Pats may not have known about the accusations before they signed Brown, but they’re choosing to roll with him regardless. So what difference does it make?
As a lifelong Patriots fan, I can’t not watch my team. Despite what everyone likes to think, many of the players on this team are food men. The McCourty twins, Duron Harmon, and Matthew Slater (to name a few) all do so much good for their communities and beyond. But their good doesn’t outweigh the harm that Antonio Brown has caused his ex-trainer.
I will continue to cheer for my team, but I cannot root for Antonio Brown. I hope I’m not the only Pats fan struggling with this. And I hope other NFL fans feel the same when they find out their team employs an Antonio Brown or a Tyreke Hill.
This season as I struggle with my morals and ethics while supporting a team that employs a sexual abuse, I pledge to donate $1 for every snap played by Antonio Brown as a member of the New England Patriots to organizations that support women who have been affected by domestic and sexual abuse. I challenge other NFL fans to do the same.