Reprinted with permission of The BCC Tattler

“15 women accuse former Redskins employees of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.” This was the headline football fans across the country saw in the Washington Post as they awoke on July 16. It is only one of the recent developments that is part of a more widespread and comprehensive problem with football culture that sweeps through all elements of the sport. Instead of treating these despicable acts of sexual harassment as isolated incidents, they should instead be looked at as parts of a universal predicament the sport of footbal is facing.

Before Washington, there was the scandal surrounding Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Prior to that, there was the relentless harassment within the Jets organization towards reporter Ines Sainz. All of these events and countless more, represent the same bigotry and sexism.

This vile pattern of abuse doesn’t end with the front office side of the league, but in 2015 it was determined that 44 players in the National Football League were being accused of sexual or physical assault according toVice Staff.

In a 2014 study by Benjamin Morris of FiveThirtyEight, it was found that the rate of domestic violence arrests in the NFL relative to other violent crimes was 48%, more than double the national rate of 21%. This also doesn’t account for the poverty rate of 0% that NFL players are privileged to benefit from, in addition to overwhelmingly being in the top 1% income bracket.

Gone are the days where each new story of sexual assault, harrasment, or rape plastering itself all over the front pages of the nation’s newspapers should be treated like an individual anomaly. Instead, the sport requires a thorough cultural upheaval, starting with awareness among the players, as well as stricter and harsher policies within the NFL to punish domestic violence. Additionally, the influence that professional athletes hold among the youth in the sport have the potential to spur a trickle down effect to other levels of football.

There is precedent for the type of turnaround necessary to eliminate the pervasive rape culture in the league. In 2004 the Australian Football League (AFL) experienced multiple domestic violence incidents of their own. The league responded by mandating an annual education program for the players about the issue, as well as bolstering their own league policies and consequences.

There is a problem, and there is a solution. The NFL has shown over the years that they are willing to take action to solve social problems the league faces. The Rooney rule implemented in 2003 is a perfect example of a manner in which the league took action to expand the opportunities of minority coaches, demonstrating their ability to thoroughly address social obstacles confronting the league. Rape culture in the sport of football is real, and is not planning on leaving any time soon. Systemic transformation is not just needed, but is essential in order to preserve the integrity of a sport beloved across the country.

Artwork by Kelsea Petersen

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