Gail Sideman Publicity


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The wildly popular NFL is here to stay, so it should step up and do good

Yes, the National Football League has image issues.

No, the multi-billion dollar NFL isn’t going anywhere soon.

Commissioner Roger Goodell continues to be a public no-show (9 days and counting) and so far today, there are no new reports of NFL-related arrests. {NFL owners wipe their brows and watch the clock…}

Despite the calls for Goodell’s job because of the way he handled the Ray Rice domestic violence-related suspensions, Adrian Peterson’s grand jury indictment on child abuse charges and other behavioral issues around the league, the NFL is alive and attracting more viewers than ever.

This puts the league in a great position to make a positive difference in millions of lives.

It should be reminded that despite a rash of violent incidents by players in the league, NFL teams employ a lot of good and generous athletes. They practice hard, play harder and make positive differences in their communities. They, along with NFL management, which includes four women named to guide the league’s domestic violence policy, can keep domestic challenges in the public’s consciousness. And that would be a good thing.

One in three women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and they account for 15 percent of all violent crime in this country. In addition, 18 percent of all minors are victims of physical abuse with those ages 2-and-younger the most frequent targets. Many of those people live with lifelong effects of those horrific episodes.

The rate of domestic violence arrests among NFL players is actually lower during the last nine years than the national average but they are better known because of the league’s and many players’ high profiles. That popularity was demonstrated this past week when NFL TV ratings rose from the same time a year ago, the Bears-49ers “Sunday Night Football” game topping all of them.

More than 22 million viewers for one prime-time regular season professional football game… That number further entrenches the NFL in positions of authority and influence, and what must drive it to become a catalyst for change. The league has the ability to affect human behavior just like it’s attracted millions of men and women to buy tickets and merchandise. It has the media platform to communicate the causes and cures for domestic issues.

To be sure, NFL personnel are not psychiatrists and there are individuals that need professional help to overcome dangerous tendencies. With a carefully orchestrated message and education campaign, however, the NFL can and should use its popularity for good in the face of what has brought domestic and childhood violence to the forefront of the nation’s conversation. This effort must go worlds beyond a public relations plan or pushing people to wear a certain color. It must be a project that is coordinated with professionals from the medical field and communicated by the many respected voices in the league in a coordinated fashion.

The NFL strategically built an enviable fan base that dates back to 1920, and this week, some of its players showed just how human larger-than-life men can be. While “The Shield” may be dented from weeks of bad press, it can regain its stature and prove that it sincerely cares for its fans by turning tortuous days of behavior and publicity into something good for the long term.


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