Monday, September 8, 2014

Morally Conflicted

Generally, I think I'm a good person. I wave to my neighbors, I recycle, I teach my daughter manners and politeness. I'll even stop on a busy street and let the person waiting to exit the gas station in front of me.
I eat free-range eggs and hormone-free chicken. I rarely eat fast food. I don't shop at Hobby Lobby.
I was never promiscuous. I may not go to church but I have faith and beliefs.
I believe women should control their bodies.
I am disgusted by what happened to Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and horrified that this is 2014.
And don't get me started on how college campuses mishandle sexual-assault cases.
In short, I have morals.
But what do I do when something I love so dearly and means so much to me and how I was raised and how I spend time with my family has become so morally reprehensible?
I'm talking about the NFL.
I love football with every fiber of my soul. As a kid raised in Pittsburgh during the steel curtain era, it's hard to imagine a life where the Steelers were not a part of my everyday existence. As I've grown away from Pittsburgh, I still spend my Sundays on the couch watching whatever games are locally-covered while maniacally re-loading my phone to get updates on the Steelers score. I can spout statistics like I'm being paid by CBS. I know the ref calls based only on their hand-signals.
I'm one of the women that makes up the NFL's increasingly, gender-split fanbase.
But after seeing this, I don't know how much of a fan I can be anymore.
That video shows Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens punching his then-fiancee-now-wife in the head. As she slumps from the impact, her head hits a railing in the elevator and she's knocked unconscious. Instead of freaking out and begging her to wake up, what does Ray Rice do? He moves her around, tries to get her shoes on and basically acts like this is an everyday thing and he dropped a bag of groceries.
You can watch for yourself. I can't do it again.
I sat by and continued to support my team even when our starting quarterback was accused of rape – twice – and I felt sick about it then. But there was never enough evidence blah blah blah and I black&gold-washed the situation to myself, naively, so that I could keep supporting my team via my morally ambiguous high road.
I don't know if I can do that this time. Believe me, I am no fan of the Baltimore Ravens. But the fact that the NFL commissioner saw this footage and gave Rice a 2-GAME SUSPENSION is sickening. I just can't support a league that will suspend a dude for four games for partying during the Kentucky Derby yet gives a player half that for caveman-dragging his fiancee across a hotel lobby after he punched her lights out.
I don't want to have to explain to my daughter that I love this game but the players who play it beat women the same way they plow through defensive blockers on a 34-yard carry.
I shouldn't have to.
I have prided myself on being the type of wife who is NOT a football widow. I love watching football with my husband and he loves that he can go to the bathroom and I can tell him what the previous plays were. But how am I – as a mom of a little girl – to support a sport that doesn't care about women except for the amount of money they spend in the NFL for Ladies shop?
I honestly believe that the only way the NFL will take domestic abuse cases seriously is to lose revenue. Sorry family, but you won't be getting any Steelers merch for Christmas this year.
As for still tuning in, well I don't live alone. Watching football together is a family tradition and I need to weigh what is more important: the importance of family time or my moral outrage about what goes on in a league that doesn't care what I think or do anyway.

Update: A few hours after I published this post, the Baltimore Ravens cut Ray Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. It's sad that it took a TMZ video being released to make that happen but it's at least a step in the right direction.


  1. There's a piece I read a ways back, about movies and books more than sports, called "How to be a fan of problematic things." And it sounds like that's where you are. Speaking out about it, not denying it's a problem, that's probably a good first step. You can love something while simultaneously wanting it to do better. And for change to happen, people have to make noise.

    1. I'll have to look for that piece, Skye. Thanks for sharing and for your reassurance. xo

  2. I feel the same way. I was so relieved when I got the update today on the Ray Rice. Lots of love to you, Lisa. Coming by from Austin Bloggers on FB.

    1. Thanks, Lisa! I'll be sure to check out your blog.

  3. I totally hear you. Although my interest in football has faded over the years (I seriously considered trying out for my high school football team), my husband has decide this is how he and my son will bond. Between the inappropriate commercials, the concussions and the thug culture that seems to pervade the sport, I find myself trying to get my kid more interested in soccer. I agree that we have to take a stand and this seems like the time to do it. - Nicole from Austin Bloggers

  4. I love sports, in general. But I'm so sad that I can't let my son watch football, especially, because even the commercials are violent and inappropriate. I remember watching the ABC Wide World of Sports as a kid and loving it, and I'm disappointed that it's not quite the same. I hope the NFL is inspired to make some major changes..... they have a long, long way to go.
    Well said, Lisa.