As we start Domestic Violence Month, now might be a good time for the Baltimore Ravens to step up their game against domestic violence. There is no need to wait for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his self-imposed deadline of the Super Bowl to take action against domestic violence. Just this week, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson launched Pass the Peace, a campaign, to bring awareness and funds to combating domestic violence. Growing up in a family of football lovers of first the Colts and now the Ravens, it is difficult to sit back and watch the inaction by the Ravens organization on the domestic violence issue. What the Ravens do now, in light of accusations of cover up, delay in taking action, apologies, explanations and ongoing investigations will determine what the team is made of off the field.
Having prosecuted domestic violence crimes in Baltimore and since represented many victims and a few abusers of domestic violence, I know there is no easy fix on the issue of domestic violence in the NFL or elsewhere. But there is always an opportunity to make something good out of a bad occurrence. The Ravens organization needs to take decisive action on implementing its own domestic violence program. And taking action is necessary to educate players on domestic violence, help prevent future occurrences and show a true commitment to addressing domestic violence. Actions taken now on the part of the Ravens might just help prevent future domestic violence incidents by players or perhaps save someone’s life.
Domestic violence is nothing new to the NFL. In 1968, Jim Brown faced his first of many domestic violence charges, an assault with intent to murder, with other charges following in 1985, 1986 and 1999. And one of the most egregious domestic violence cases was former Carolina Panthers player, Rae Carruth, who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder on his pregnant girlfriend in 1999. A USA Today database that tracks NFL player arrests since 2000 found there were 87 domestic violence arrests among 80 players. While some may argue that these numbers seem relatively low, an analysis shows they represent 48 percent of the number of violent crime arrests by NFL players, according to FiveThirtyEight. And today, there are 12 active players with domestic violence arrests.
A unique opportunity exists for the Ravens to lead the other 31 NFL teams on domestic violence programming to show that their franchise is truly committed to helping their players through mandatory counseling, training and education. Football is an aggressive and hard hitting sport. And the Ravens team is one of the most physical teams in the league—a very good quality in football. And it is not uncommon for any profession’s good qualities to become bad ones when exhibited on one’s off work time. And that is not simply an excuse. It is but one factor to consider when organizing any program to educate players on domestic violence and its consequences.
On the Baltimore Ravens’ web site, it states: “The Baltimore Ravens have a strong commitment to making a difference in our community.” Many young boys and youth mimic what they see their sports role models do on and off the field. And in the community served by the Ravens, domestic violence accounted for 16,269 assaults in all counties of Maryland in 2012, with the largest numbers in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
Football is all about winning. There are ways to win both on and off the field. And that’s why I urge the Baltimore Ravens to now take the lead in the NFL in implementing a domestic violence program for the good of the community, the team and for all those impacted by domestic violence. And then hopefully others will follow
Debbie Hines, founder of LegalSpeaks.com, is a former Baltimore City prosecutor who now resides and practices law in Washington, DC.