There’s not enough pink in the world to whitewash the NFL’s continued disregard for women.
As the league plasters its fields with pink ribbons and decks its players out in pink cleats and pink towels this month in an effort to fool us into thinking it cares for the health of its female fans, its handling of Josh Brown’s suspension for domestic violence shows what a farce it all is.
“I became an abuser and hurt Molly physically, emotionally and verbally,” the New York Giants kicker wrote in a March 2014 letter to family members and friends that was part of a trove of documents released Wednesday night to USA TODAY Sports, other news outlets and the NFL.
“I viewed myself as God basically and she was my slave.”
This is the guy the NFL suspended in August for one game following a May 2015 incident with his then-wife, Molly. One measly game. Animal cruelty, DUIs, drug use — if you judge simply by the penalties handed down, the NFL considers all of those offenses more shameful than abusing your spouse.
The Giants left Brown behind when they flew to London on Thursday night, saying it “makes sense” to “revisit the issue” when they return. The NFL, meanwhile, was on the defensive, saying it didn’t have access to the just-released journals and letters in which the kicker acknowledged a history of abuse and other troubling behavior until Wednesday night. But there was a mountain of other information out there had the NFL bothered to really look at it.
“Certainly he admitted to us that he abused his wife,” Giants owner John Mara said in an interview with WFAN.
Not that this should come as a surprise. Two years after the Ray Rice video revealed the NFL’s woeful attitudes about domestic violence, the league has shown it has no more interest in taking strong stands against abuse than it did then.
That six-game suspension Commissioner Roger Goodell promised would be the “baseline” for first-time offenders? It’s been imposed once. Teams are still enabling abusers, be it the Dallas Cowboys signing Greg Hardy or Mara defending his team’s decision to re-sign Brown despite knowing about the May 2015 domestic violence case and never even attempting to talk with Molly Brown about it.
“A lot of times there is a tendency to try to make these cases black and white,” Mara, normally one of the league’s truer moral compasses, told the New York Post in August. “They are very rarely black and white.”
I don’t remember the case against Tom Brady being cut and dried, but that didn’t stop Goodell from banishing him for a quarter of the season.
Brown’s acknowledgment that he abused his former wife renewed outrage over his lax suspension. So, naturally, the NFL on Thursday tried to shift the blame to Brown’s former wife and law enforcement, saying they had refused to cooperate with the league’s investigation. Charges against Brown were never filed.
But the league was aware when it suspended Brown that Molly Brown had told police her husband had abused her more than 20 times in recent years. It also had its own records from the Pro Bowl, when NFL security was called after Josh Brown showed up at his estranged wife’s hotel room and the league later moved Molly Brown and her children to another, undisclosed hotel.
“The whole thing bothered me,” Mara acknowledged.
Two days after Brown was suspended, the New York Daily News published 911 calls along with Molly Brown’s statement to police about the May 2015 incident and the other allegations of abuse. USA TODAY Sports and ESPN obtained similar records, with ESPN noting that police had been called twice to the couple’s apartment in Hoboken, N.J.
A week after Brown was suspended, documents revealed that he’d violated a protective order two months after his arrest in the 2015 case.
What more did the NFL need? A video tape?
With a crack investigative team created solely for the purpose of connecting the dots in cases such as these, it begs the question of how the NFL could be caught so unaware. Or why it vigorously pursues some cases, suing prosecutors to get access to evidence against Hardy, for example, while barely lifting a finger in others.
“Molly was very upfront that in her experience, the NFL publicly says that they have a no tolerance policy on domestic violence, but the reality is that they do more crisis management and look to cover things up,” King County (Wash.) Detective Robin Ostrum wrote in her follow-up report.
The NFL now says it will “thoroughly review the additional information and determine next steps in the context of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy,” and there’s no doubt Brown will soon be facing a lengthier suspension.
That’s too little, too late. The time to send a strong message was back in August, and the NFL couldn’t be bothered.
But please, paint something else pink to show how much the NFL cares.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.