Commentary by James Turnage
I am a huge fan of the NFL. I live or die when my favorite team wins or loses; (and I won’t name that team). But make no mistake about it; the NFL is a corporation. Money is the machine which runs the league, and the games are secondary to profit motive. The most recent scandal infecting the NFL began with an attack on a young woman in an elevator, and was followed up with lies and acts of deceit. The truth is that the NFL has a history of covering up domestic violence.
The sports nation has allowed Commissioner Roger Goodell and Baltimore Ravens’ owner Steve Busciotti a free pass on the issue. Women who were part of the lives of NFL players and were affected by domestic violence are keeping the issue alive and recounting incidents which were ‘swept under the rug’ in the past. The Washington Post has revealed the stories of two such women and how the league protected the players and ignored the damaged women.
Two NFL wives detail their personal involvement with their husbands, the NFL League Office, and the NFL Players Union. These incidents happened long ago and are examples of domestic violence issues which have been ignored for decades.
Dewan Smith-Williams is separated from Wally Williams who was an offensive lineman for the New Orleans Saints. The first reported incident of illegal involvement was in 2001. An alarm at the Williams’ home resulted in response by the police. When they entered the home they found marijuana on the coffee table. Wally Williams was arrested but not charged.
Jim Haslett was the Head Coach of the Saints in 2001. He told the Williams family not to talk about the incident. He said the Saints’ organization ‘would handle it.’ Dewan took Haslett’s comments as a threat, and that she shouldn’t talk about Wally’s increased violence which occurred in the future.
The second woman, who wishes to remain anonymous because her husband continues to have connections with the NFL told a story about an incident in the 1990’s when her husband dragged her out of a bar and beat her after a post-game celebration. When they arrived home he punched and kicked her. When neighbors heard the noise next door the police were called. Her husband had ‘cleaned her up’ and no charges were filed. A representative from the Saints’ organization visited her the next day but never asked her about the incident at the bar which happened in front of other players.
The suppression of domestic violence in the NFL was not covered up by the league office alone. The NFLPA was in collusion with the league office.
In 2002, Wally Williams had been arrested by police for drug violations. When Dewan confronted her husband after discovering marijuana in their home Wally took a baseball bat and destroyed much of the home’s interior. Ms. Williams remembered the instructions by Jim Haslett and called the NFLPA. They said someone ‘would get back to her.’ No one ever called.
Issues similar to the aforementioned incidents continued and were ignored by the league office and the NFLPA.
Two weeks ago, Jerry Angelo made a statement that ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of cases involving domestic violence had been covered up by the NFL during the three decades of his career. He later recanted his allegations after receiving pressure from the league.
The Ray Rice issue has exposed a long hidden reality hidden by the NFL. There is no question about what happened in that elevator in Atlantic City. The question that can be asked is when the Baltimore Ravens and the League Office knew what happened and why their actions were minimal at first, and falsified later.
A great amount of importance has been placed on the second video tape which depicted Rice punching his fiancé. Was that the telltale evidence? I don’t believe so. What did Biscoitti and Goodell believe occurred in the elevator after the first tape showed Ms. Palmer being dragged out while obviously unconscious?
The NFL, and particularly Roger Goodell have lied to the American public, and continue to consider domestic violence less important than the financial success of the NFL. Goodell must be removed from his position, and a serious Commissioner placed into power. This time it might be reasonable to select a woman. The ‘fairer sex’ comprises 40 percent of the fan base, and would likely consider domestic violence a serious issue.
By James Turnage