By: OLIVIA VARNSON
(Gainesville, Ga.) – In light of recent acts of domestic violence involving athletes in the National Football League, a panel of female journalists hosted espnW’s “The State of the NFL” on ESPN Radio, September 16, 2014.
The panel included ESPN personalities Jemele Hill, Cari Champion and Jane McManus.
They discussed the prevalence of domestic violence cases associated with the NFL, inconsistencies in the NFL’s punishments for cases of domestic violence and the potential for the NFL to establish a stronger relationship with its female fan base.
One of the first things Hill mentioned during the special was that 45 percent of NFL fans are female, perhaps a larger number than many would expect.
While it is the hope that everyone, regardless of gender, is disturbed by cases of domestic violence, it can be especially isolating for female fans. Hill, Champion and McManus discussed the message that the NFL has sent in the past. By not committing to a strict policy regarding domestic violence, it has grown more difficult for some female fans to trust that the NFL cares about taking all possible measures to prevent these types of crimes that impact women every day.
Kate Fagan, a writer for ESPN and a guest on the special, brought up a few important questions NFL officials could answer to assure their concerned audience that the NFL is on a productive path. Fagan posed questions about how many women are present when important decisions are being made about the NFL and, more specifically, how many women are in paid, leadership positions within the NFL’s offices? The hosts joined in to emphasize the importance of having multiple viewpoints present when impactful decisions are being made.
Hill, Champion and McManus also led discussions which emphasized that, whether they like it or not, professional athletes are seen as role models. Another way the NFL could begin to rebuild its image and send the message that it does not tolerate domestic violence is to send its athletes to speak to sports teams at the high school and college levels.
Guests raised the point that, in a sport like football where physicality is rewarded and encouraged on the field, it is especially important to make sure that players are able to separate acceptable behavior on the field from acceptable behavior off the field. The earlier these messages can reach athletes and potential athletes, the better.
The special ended with just as many questions as when it began. Hill, Champion and McManus highlighted ways in which the NFL could begin a sincere re-branding, but they were wary to grow hopeful for any significant change in the near future, given its power and influence on advertisers.
Nevertheless, it was public outcry that led the NFL to reexamine its policies and Hill, Champion and McManus wondered whether or not public opinion could continue to reshape the NFL.
To listen to a recording of the special, visit espn.go.com/espnradio.