(Originally Posted on, September 2015)

Today is pretty much Christmas in September for football fans. After a long off-season, the NFL is back. All the bone crushing tackles, fantasy pools, cheerleaders, the drama and the spectacle, it all returns this week. And the off season was anything but uneventful, filled in typical NFL fashion with off field legal antics, the least of which was the prolonged Deflategate drama, ending when the NFL’s controversial four game suspension of New England quarterback and four time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady was overturned by a federal judge just days before opening day.

During the months that Deflategate stretched on and on (and relentlessly on), you couldn’t help but wonder how uncomfortable some female fans must have been. Because if the fallout from Tom Brady’s deflated balls proved anything, it was that domestic abuse and violence against women is a reluctant, almost non-priority for the NFL’s power brokers.

Remember Ray Rice? The Baltimore Ravens running back became a household name when the NFL suspended him in July of 2014 for “conduct detrimental to the league.” The conduct in question was captured in video footage taken in February of that year of him roughly dragging his then fiancé Janay’s unconscious body from an Atlantic City hotel elevator after “detrimenting” her out cold. When speculation on how long his inevitable suspension would be, people began referencing previous suspensions, weighing those acts against the images of Rice’s unconscious wife. After all, not only had Rice apparently knocked his wife out, he’d also committed the cardinal sin of getting caught on camera doing it.

Besides, Roger Goodell was the commissioner that suspended Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth for 5 games in 2006 for stomping on another player’s unprotected head during a game. He suspended Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress 4 games in 2007 for accidentally shooting himself in the leg with his own gun at a nightclub and he handed Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington an entire season for marijuana use (his second infraction of the NFL’s substance abuse policy). Goodell also banned dancing in the end zone after a touchdown (inspiring many fans to start referring to the NFL as the No Fun League) so surely Rice’s ban would rank up there with Michael Vick’s 2007 indefinite suspension for dog fighting. So when Goodell lowered the NFL’s heavy boom of justice on Rice for a whole two games, everyone on the entire planet responded with a collective “ex-freaking-cuse me?” According to the NFL’s math, a player’s wife was worth about fifty percent of his leg.

The NFL did reluctantly come to its senses and suspended Rice indefinitely (though the Ravens had already cut him and the CFL wasted no time announcing Rice was not welcome north of the border) but only after security video footage from inside the elevator was released by gossip site TMZ showing Rice savagely punching Janay in the face (before dragging her body into the hallway with casual disregard). The NFL claimed that it had only initially slapped Rice on the wrist because it wasn’t aware of the second, more graphic video’s existence (a story that has been refuted by security at the hotel where the whole thing went down). Apparently the NFL thought Janay was rendered unconscious by a particularly rousing game of Parcheesi (just to throw a little extra rocket fuel on that particular fire, there are some claiming that the NFL was aware of the incriminating footage as far back as April of 2014).

And in a purely chivalrous moment, Goodell managed to twist his failure back on Janay, claiming he didn’t want to damage her credibility by questioning her version of events (or something to that effect) because isn’t it just always the woman’s fault?

And you have to wonder how many football fans are aware that several NFL franchises have been dragged into court by their cheerleading squads in recent years. It seems that’s it become regular operating procedure for some members of the NFL’s billion dollar club to pay its cheerleaders, the second biggest reason millions of middle aged men tune in every Sunday, less then fast food workers when they’re paying them at all. Oakland’s “Raiderettes” settled with the Raiders for 1.25 million dollars last year, with some of the women being awarded up to ten thousand dollars in back pay (and the team is now legally mandated to pay all of its cheerleaders California’s minimum wage).

Buffalo disbanded its cheerleading squad, the “Buffalo Jills,” when they filed a lawsuit against the Bills because they weren’t paid at all. Giving Buffalo an extra PR black eye is that the Bills issued a twelve page handbook to every one of the Jills, generously offering tips on fashion, hair-styles, cosmetic maintenance, being conversational (“never be opinionated”), personal cleanliness, shaving pubic hair (“always change that razor ladies!”) and menstrual hygiene (“change your tampon every four hours unless you’re sleeping”), treating them like colouring books with pubic hair and not paying them a single cent in the meantime.

And that brings us back to Brady and his flat balls. There’s little doubt that the entire Deflategate saga soaked up more media attention and was more polarizing then Rice or the cheerleader squabbles (teams love the attention scantily clad, pompom waving women get they just don’t want to pay them for it), but according to the NFL, tampering with the air pressure of footballs is twice as bad as punching your wife unconscious. The ugly truth is the whole debacle exposed the NFL‘s callous hypocrisy and more then anything proves that while the NFL loves the money women may spend, it really has no interest in the safety or dignity of women themselves.

Shayne Kempton


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