October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the spotlight has been on the NFL as several domestic abuse allegations have been made against players and the corresponding punishments have been scrutinized. But now, it’s being revealed that the NFL has ignored domestic violence incidents for years. A former NFL executive, Jerry Angelo, said teams did not discipline players in “hundreds and hundreds” of domestic violence incidents during his 30 years in the league, and said he now regrets his role in the failure to take action.
Angelo, who was general manager of the Chicago Bears from 2001 to 2011 and has been out of the league since, said his typical approach after learning of a player’s involvement in a domestic violence case was to inquire, “OK, is everybody OK? Yeah. How are they doing? Good. And then we’d just move on. We’d move on.”
“We knew it was wrong,” Angelo said. “…For whatever reason, it just kind of got glossed over. I’m no psychiatrist, so I can’t really get into what that part of it is. I’m just telling you how I was. I’ve got to look at myself first. And I was part of that, but I didn’t stand alone.”
The Bears released a statement later Thursday denying any knowledge of Angelo’s assertions. “We were surprised by Jerry’s comments and do not know what he is referring to,” the statement read.
Oh really? You don’t? So Angelo is just lying on an entire organization? Doubtful.
Let’s check in with someone else, an NFL player, who confirms Angelo’s statements:
Tank Johnson, a defensive tackle who played for the Bears from 2004 to 2006, said he is aware that domestic violence incidents went unpunished. Johnson served a six-game suspension imposed by the league in 2007 for a series of legal issues involving gun charges, but nothing involving domestic violence.
“I think that 95 percent of situations or issues that ballclubs face, of course they try to handle them internally and see if they can come up with a resolution,” Johnson told USA TODAY Sports. “…We’re talking about billion-dollar organizations, and maybe there’s a little bravado there, a little ego to say that we can handle this internally.”
It it a sad situation, but the truth it is that the NFL is a business and money continues to trump a woman’s safety.
According to USA Today, Angelo said he did not report to the league cases of domestic violence involving players because disciplinary action would have put his team at a competitive disadvantage.
“Our business is to win games,” Angelo said. “We’ve got to win games, and the commissioner’s job is to make sure the credibility of the National Football League is held in the highest esteem. But to start with that, you have to know who’s representing the shield.”
If it’s common knowledge that players are being abusive and fellow male players, coaches, managers and owners aren’t stopping them then what’s stopping them from continuing the abuse against their partners? And what of the women? The girlfriends or the wives who may be too afraid to leave or file charges with the police, especially if they feel like they won’t have any support when the allegations are made public? Angelo’s confession of the NFL’s policies was risky, but brave because it will force the NFL to appropriately deal with and punish the abusive players in their League.