STARTING FIVE: Domestic violence in sports needs to be punished more harshly than taking a knee

Carter Landis, Sports Editor

It’s always uncomfortable to talk about sports when it becomes more than just a game. It’s hard to talk about a game when it crosses over into reality. This is especially true when it comes to domestic violence, an unfortunate commonality in NFL athletes. It’s been happening way too often in the last few years – there have been 20 major cases in the last four years and likely countless other incidents that never received media attention – and sports fans, while still becoming unnerved when hearing or reading about these cases, have become more desensitized to them.

This is not to say that all fans choose to ignore the domestic violence charges against players.  They have made some people quite angry, and still commissioner Roger Goodell seems to never imply strong consequences against the athletes in question. Some demand severe indictments for the people in the NFL who cause the domestic violence, including release from their team or as far as a ban from the league, but Goodell seems content to give other players larger punishments for lesser crimes. The blame for the prevalence of domestic violence in the NFL falls squarely on Roger Goodell for having a very miniscule understanding -or willingness- to give out punishments in correlation with the crimes players commit. For example, Josh Gordon hasn’t played a down in the NFL in three years because he smoked marijuana. Why does a player receive a larger ban for smoking than a player who beats his wife? It seems easy enough to understand that he shouldn’t give a player more suspended games for smoking than he should for hitting his wife. Goodell’s backwards policies relating to the punishment of certain players is making the NFL a worse place.

There have been countless cases of domestic violence in the NFL. Dez Bryant assaulted his mother in 2012. He received no punishment. Josh Brown assaulted his wife in 2016 and got a one game suspension. Ezekiel Elliott threw his girlfriend against a wall and choked her several times, yet his suspension is being upheld and he’s still being allowed to play, as determined by the NFL. Joe Mixon knocked a woman out at a bar in 2014, and later was drafted by the Bengals in the second round and is now their feature running back.

Why did these players not receive a severe punishment? Why is a guy like Colin Kaepernick who peacefully protests injustice being blackballed by the league when he had a QBR of 90.7 and is completely capable of playing in the NFL, when other men like Mixon who violently attack women are being allowed playing time every Sunday?

Nobody wants to hear about a domestic violence case because nobody wants them to happen. They’re terrifying to read, they make fans of the player embarrassed that their team would employ such an awful human being, and it’s not easy for parents to explain to their kids why their favorite player isn’t playing because he abused his wife or girlfriend.

There’s no easy fix for domestic violence, but thankfully there is an easy fix to how it relates to a professional athlete’s time on the field. Don’t allow them to play. It’s better for the league if they’re held on the sidelines or away from the team completely. It may be a detriment to winning games, but is that a huge price to play when the law is in question. If no stronger action is taken, this will continue to be allowed to happen.