NFL wide receiver, Antonio Brown, despite his good track record, has been stirring up chaos throughout the NFL this off-season. Ditching training camp, complaining, and reckless tweeting are one part of his offenses, but rape and sexual misconduct allegations are quite another. Despite having a clear policy regarding such actions, the current NFL system that deals with these cases is full of ineffective punishments, conflicts of interest, and loopholes for NFL teams to exploit for their own benefit.
According to the New York Post, just days before Brown’s debut with the Patriots, Britney Taylor, his former trainer, filed a civil lawsuit accusing the pro football player of rape. Brown has denied these allegations, but suspicions are on the rise after an unnamed painter accused him of sexual misconduct less than a week later.
Four years ago, after the Ray Rice incident – when the Raven’s running back punched his fiancée in a hotel elevator – the NFL created a set of punishments for future cases involving sexual assault. Currently, according to Bleacher Report Magazine, the NFL employs a six game, unpaid suspension for the first offense of assault.
According to Sports Illustrated, a six game suspension still leaves the average pro football player with $1,806,999 in their pocket at the end of the regular season. To compare, a six game suspension leaves wide receivers like Antonio Brown with a measly $1,129,274 a year. Clearly, going six games unpaid makes little impact in the grand scheme of things and shows that money offers no motivation to prevent cases of sexual misconduct in the NFL.
In terms of the suspension time, Mathew Foster, social studies teacher, said, “I don’t think that they should be able to play at all until it has been completely adjudicated through the criminal justice system. I think it looks really bad for the league to have a potential criminal out there catching footballs.”
Recently, according to USA Today, the Patriots released a statement in light of Brown’s allegations stating that the league will pursue an investigation. This is all well and good except for the fact that an open investigation is subject to all kinds of manipulation by sports teams.
Take for example, the case with Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot, who, according to Bleacher Report Magazine, was accused of domestic violence last season. The case investigating his allegations was conveniently ruled incomplete just as the Cowboys made the Super Bowl playoffs. Elliot continued to play, and as of yet, the NFL has taken no further action.
This conflict of interest is yet another reason why the current system that deals with these cases is not functioning as well as it should. Nico Puentes, senior, said, “I think it’s more of the relationship you have with the commissioner than if you’re guilty or not.”
The rules definitely do need to be changed; not just for the sake of the victim and the NFL, but for the viewers as well. According to Sports Illustrated, in 2018, individual NFL game viewership in the U.S. averaged 15.8 million. “It is the biggest and most popular professional sports league in America and they make money hand over fist,” Foster said. “Their exposure is astronomical. If that kind of message is being sent, then it for sure needs to be addressed.”
There isn’t an obvious solution, but I do believe that the NFL needs to change its policies. The little kids that sit at home watching these games should learn that sexual harassment is not tolerable and having money does not give you a get out of jail free card. “We’re all human,” Puentes said. “I think that everybody should be treated with the same punishment if they do get charged or convicted.”
Annika Rennaker, Staff Reporter