This is a long post, so please think about acting first: Please click this link to read and to sign the 24 Minutes for Her petition.
My Facebook feed is flooded with social commentary on Ray Rice's assault on his then-fiancee, now-wife Janay, and these posts range from flip ("The NFL is full of wife-beaters; why is this news?" or "Everyone knows the Ravens suck!") to enraging ("She married him after that, so she deserves what she gets.") to praise for the NFL ("So glad they finally did something!") to a bit of real concern ("Is this enough?" and "Why isn't he in jail?") It is high-time that people talk about domestic violence; the statistics are alarming and not improving. But it is also upsetting that, just like other trends, people think that a post on Facebook equates to doing something or saying something that makes a significant difference. If 10 million people post on Facebook that they disagree with the NFL's decision for a six-game suspension, is that data going to get into the NFL's hands -- and is the NFL going to act? The data won't even show up to the party, and the NFL is too busy patting itself on the back for taking a half-assed action that it should have taken immediately that still doesn't go far enough to even notice that people are talking. Just like recent DV arrests on the 49ers squad that are receiving little-to-no airtime. this news will die down, and we'll go back to watching, and cheering, for people that we wouldn't want near our wives and daughters -- for people whom we would not want our sons to become.
Not all NFL players are abusers. But here's a statistical fact: of all of the arrests of NFL players ages 25 to 29 (and whoo-ee, there are a lot ... which is a problem, given the amount of kids that look up to these dudes), over half are for domestic assault. In society, a fifth of all arrests for that same age group are for domestic violence. The NFL has a domestic violence issue. And suspending a single player for six games is not really handling it.
We need to change this conversation. It needs to stop being about Ray Rice. It needs to start being about statistics and about changing them. And each one of those statistics has a human face. This isn't just a numbers game; this is a movement that needs to happen to save lives.
That is 24 too many.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and there are a lot of football games in October. What if we petition the NFL to start October games 24 minutes late and donate that time to the cause of combatting domestic violence? What if we ask them to have players wear the number 24 over their logo all month? What if we demand that first-offense domestic violence become a career-ending injury? What if we ask the teams to do public service announcements (PSAs) to raise awareness of not only domestic violence facts but also of support available to women (and men!) who may be suffering at the hands of an intimate partner that very moment? What if those PSAs try to address abusers, too, trying to reach them before they explode?
When I floated this idea on Facebook, a number of friends balked. They said networks wouldn't go for it; advertisements are already promised and scheduled far in advance. Things like rain delays are covered by insurance; from where would the funding for PSAs come? And what would be talked about for those 24 minutes (or maybe 19, or 15, of you allow "normal" ads to run)?
In other words, friends are saying "this isn't going to work."
Well, what is going to work to combat the tide of domestic violence not only in the NFL, but in every American minute in which 24 folks are abused? Might it be worth the time or the money to try out maximizing these 24 minutes in an attempt to make a really significant change in our society?
Last year, 34 of 35 most-watched fall TV programs were football games with viewership per game ranging from 27 to over 31 million viewers. There is no other forum in which as many affected women and men can be reached.
NFL players can behave differently. If their livelihood will clearly be over if they raise their hand once to their intimate partner, they will think twice. And if they don't, there are plenty of athletes who will take their places who aren't abusers. Good riddance.
The NFL can offer help to players who struggle with impulse control and anger issues. The NFL can offer counseling to both players and to families. The NFL can make clear that on a professional team, there is no room for crime. Jobs from minimum wage through C-level Fortune 500 positions are lost for less; why are million-dollar athletes given chance after chance in a low-accountability setting?
The NFL has not done anything systemic and large-scale like this before. The public has not pressured the organization. The time to act is now, while the conversation is being held.
And once we take on the NFL, maybe the other organizations: MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS ... will follow suit.
Taking 24 Minutes for Her (and for Him, and for Them, and for Everyone) in the month of October before each game could, actually, reduce rates of domestic violence in this country. It could result in unprecedented amounts of help reaching unprecedented amounts of women and children. We won't know until we try, and try we must -- because posting rants on Facebook doesn't do a damned thing to effect change. We need to go a step beyond and commit to an action that we can all support with just a few clicks, and it is one that can save lives.
Please tweet @24MinutesForHer and spread the word throughout social media with the following hashtags: #24perminute #24toomany #stopdv #zerotolerancenfl #standupnfl #nflagainstdv
We can find a million holes in my plan to take this campaign viral, but hey: I'm trying. I only ask that you try, too, for your daughters, mothers, sisters, friends (and even brothers, husbands, sons, fathers, who knows...) ... For women like Janay Rice, for there are a lot of Janay Rices out there on the other side of the TV screen. They need a way out, and we stand a chance to provide it in 24 mintues of public service announcements, education, information, conversation, and just plain attention to the very serious issue of domestic violence not just in the NFL, but throughout our nation.
I don't care about advertising dollars or delayed games or even if my cable bill goes up a buck a month to pay for it. I care that people are finding too many excuses to do little. Don't wait until it affects someone you love; act. Start with the petition, and know that we have the power to change the world. We have to; it's not going to change itself if we keep watching and expecting nothing.