The NFL has been losing precious jurors in the court of public opinion with the video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his wife unconscious, the conviction of Carolina Panther's defensive end Greg Hardy in a domestic violence case where he threatened to kill his girlfriend, the arrest of San Francisco 49er defensive end Ray McDonald, accusations of child abuse incurred by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, and now the arrest of Arizona Cardinal running back Jonathan Dwyer for head-butting his girlfriend and throwing a shoe at their 18-month-old son.
In the midst of the worst two weeks of the NFL's history in terms of public image, the League finds itself in an uncomfortable position that has been long in the making of its own accord and one that alienates its female fans.
Ironically, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took the helms of the league in September 2006, the war cry that developed out of his "judge and jury" approach to disciplining players who fell outside of the parameters of the NFL's Player Conduct Policy was "Protect The Shield." According to the USA Today NFL Arrest Database, since the year 2000 the NFL has dealt with 89 domestic violence cases. Of the cases that were resolved, only 60 percent of them resulted in diversionary programs or convictions. The NFL rarely punished players with higher than a one or two game suspension. The player conduct policy did not include any facets of a stance on domestic violence, virtually leaving women and families of the NFL unprotected.
Tanisha Robinson, Editor-In-Chief of Gumbeaux Sports, said the latest response by Goodell to the NFL's domestic violence scandals do little to ease her concerns. "He's done little to convince me that the decisions the League is making are in fact to display concern over DV (domestic violence), but instead moves to make the League look better," Robinson said in an interview with The Christian Post. "Of course as a Saints fan I already had my qualms about Roger Goodell, but these latest events have just been the tip of the NFL iceberg."
Meanwhile, NFL Blogger and TV correspondent Syreeta Hubbard believes the league has light years to go in repairing the rift it has caused.
"[The woman fans] feel like they don't matter because for so long, domestic violence has been swept under the rug," Hubbard told CP. "The NFL has to find a way to make it right or 45 percent of their fan base will soon dwindle."
When asked if she felt the League has done enough since these cases have come to light, Hubbard strongly affirmed the negative. "Absolutely not. I've said for years that players get off too easy in terms of domestic violence and sexual assault," Hubbard shared. "The one thing I can hope for, as a fan, is that now they can right the wrong that's been going on for so many years, decades even."
The daunting task is getting the NFL to enforce true change. Goodell has since revamped and implemented a new Domestic Violence Policy. He has hired three women as domestic violence advisors and one as the head of the newly created social responsibility division of the community affairs and philanthropy department. But the fact remains that Goodell and the rest of the NFL is still under the thumb of team owners, and as long as the money continues to roll in and ratings soar, there isn't much that can be done.
Robinson stated that the developments of the past few weeks wouldn't deter her from watching the NFL. " I know that I would not stop watching in protest. With all of the drama aside I love the game and I respect many of the guys who play the game," Robinson explained. "Some might try to boycott. If it's a personal thing, then go for it. But will it work? No. There will still be billions in revenue for the NFL. In no way am I saying it's pointless to stand up for something you believe in, but there are ways to hit them where it hurts without doing a protest that may go unnoticed."
Hubbard thinks there may be a slight drop off in female support of the NFL, but nothing major. "I can't see a significant drop in viewership," she explained. "I think people are too vested into football. There's fantasy football, betting and gambling on football. It keeps people watching. I think the women watching football will slightly decrease but not by much. Football is just too powerful in this country."
The first nationally televised NFL game after the indefinite suspension of Rice featured his former Raven teammates playing the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. There was a huge show of support for Rice not just by male fans but a large number of female fans, proving Hubbard's feelings may just be true: football is just too powerful.