By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL vowed two years ago to take a hard stance against domestic violence, instituting a mandatory six-game suspension for first offenses and letting it be known that such behavior would not be tolerated in the league.
Two years later, the NFL went notably light on an alleged domestic abuser, suspending Giants kicker Josh Brown for just one game, despite his ex-wife’s claim of more than 20 instances of domestic violence.
Now, the NFL and the New York Giants have a bit of a mess on their hands. And Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t making it any better.
Pierre-Paul, 27, was asked about the status of his team’s kicker, and though he hadn’t personally spoken to Brown about the accusations, he nevertheless stood by his teammate.
“Nothing has been talked about,” Pierre-Paul said, via NJ.com. “It is what it is. I think he’s suspended one game. It doesn’t matter — we’re all family around here.”
It doesn’t matter.
When the league talks a big game about having zero tolerance for domestic violence, only to later tacitly allow it in hopes of nobody noticing, this is the end result: an adult male saying that it doesn’t matter.
Of course, Pierre-Paul need not necessarily be painted as a bad guy. For one, he’s doing what just about any athlete on any team would do or say regarding a teammate. That’s a culture where, right or wrong, being a “good teammate” is often separate from doing or saying what’s reasonable.
But more so, Pierre-Paul is simply following the example set by his employer and by the league. If head coach Ben McAdoo states in January that the one thing he won’t tolerate on his team is domestic violence, if owner John Mara and quarterback Eli Manning partner with the “No More” campaign, and if the team decides to re-sign a kicker who had been arrested for domestic violence, then what should we really expect out of the defensive end who had nothing to do with it?
Pierre-Paul’s comments, though, do stand out amid a stance of silence from the entire Giants organization. McAdoo won’t talk about it, except to say that he supports Brown as a man. Mara dodged the topic over the weekend. Even Mark Herzlich, a teammate of Pierre-Paul since 2011 and Brown’s teammate for three years, hasn’t said a word. That’s after Herzlich took a proactive stance in recent years.
“There should be zero tolerance if there’s any sort of abuse,” Herzlich said while the Ray Rice situation was unfolding. “No room for it, to be honest. I take, first of all, breaking the law very seriously. And I don’t want to surround myself with people who have done it or are going to do it.”
Last fall, Herzlich added: “NO MORE means that I can stop something. I can make a difference. It starts with me. I say NO MORE.”
He said “NO MORE” then. But now he’s saying noting at all — just like nearly everyone else from his organization.
Except, of course, for Pierre-Paul.
“Why should we cut him?” Pierre-Paul asked the assembled media members. “Every guy needs a chance.”
It’s something that could have been avoided if the NFL had just followed through on its promise. Instead, the league showed it didn’t actually care much about the issue, and the rank and file NFL players are just following suit.
It’s also something that Roger Goodell — the man who made all of those promises about his league cracking down on domestic violence — could probably help clear up, if only he weren’t among the many, many folks too timid to speak up at this moment in time.
As of right now, the message on the record is that domestic violence in the NFL “doesn’t really matter.”
Apparently, the NFL is a place where seemingly everybody is more than happy to speak out against domestic violence … until the time comes where they actually have to address domestic violence. They go fully silent, betting on the hope that the American public will simply forget about it and move on.
It’s up to the public to prove them right or wrong on that gamble.
“NO MORE. We cannot accept it. We cannot tolerate it. And it’s gotta be stopped. There is no way we can accept it.”
–Eli Manning, October 2015