The controversy surrounding Dan Snyder’s decision to keep the Washington Redskins name (considered a racial slur by many) seems less urgent now with the NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell struggling to respond to domestic abuse cases involving NFL players including Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice and Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. What are owners like Snyder–who has proven (in the name controversy alone) that he will persist until he gets his way–doing to help the league respond? The owners dictate culture with their checkbooks and they ultimately have more influence than anyone else involved. Far more than the media.
ESPN anchor Hannah Storm made an emotional statement on air about the Ray Rice case. She talked searchingly about having to answer her own daughter’s question: “Mom, why did he do that? Why isn’t he in jail?” Jemele Hill, co-host of ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie, made a similar on-air address, and brought in the matter of boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. Hill urged a boycott of Mayweather fights due to his history of domestic abuse and his recent insinuation that people are overreacting to Ray Rice’s violent behavior. It’s a complicated situation–and it should be clear that the athletes guilty of these crimes don’t implicate everyone else involved in NFL football. But it also seems clear the NFL culture, which is dictated by ownership and management, would benefit from a change. It will take more than a couple of well-respected female sports anchors to move the chains on issues like domestic violence. It’ll take someone like Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder to say the very same thing as Hannah Storm in order to make a lasting impact on NFL culture. What if Snyder backed Hannah Storm as strongly as he backs Roger Goodell?