News and analysis
October 13, 2014

It’s Time to Turn the NFL Purple

While the NFL supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October with players wearing pink, shouldn’t it consider purple instead?

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month–and the hard reality is that one in four women experience domestic violence. Domestic violence is one of the most important issues to elevate in our social consciousness.

Although family violence is more pervasive than many illnesses, there are many things we can do to stop and prevent it from happening.

The NFL has attempted to ward off the public-relations nightmare of players physically injuring partners and children by giving a large donation to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, but the funding does nothing to address the real problem.

Inaction to violence is equivalent to condoning it–and domestic violence is a prevalent public-health crisis that demands much more attention.

So many studies have illustrated the impact of violence and trauma–socio-emotional problems, mental-health consequences, substance-use concerns, and even a shorter lifespan–yet violence at home persists as a constant cultural current.

Kids who witness parents physically hurting each other or others normalize that behavior, and the pattern becomes intergenerational. We heard Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson describe the abusive treatment of his 4-year-old as comparable to the “discipline” he experienced growing up.

If we start to understand the consequences of physical violence and make domestic-violence prevention a top priority, then some healthy shifts can begin to take place.

Let’s see players lead by example, and let’s hold them accountable when they use aggression to hurt others. Let’s challenge each NFL player to come up with one concrete way that he will personally promote healthy communication and coping at home–something not scripted by a marketing guru but a genuine personal pledge that can be demonstrated in everyday life.

Anyone who has ever experienced family violence should take a pledge: “It stops with me.” Actionable intention is a big part of social change. This should be the NFL’s mantra–and in October, the NFL should embrace the color purple.

Helga Luest is a recognized expert on trauma and violence. She founded the nonprofit Witness Justice, sparked by her own survival of attempted murder, and currently works with Abt Associates. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the U.S. Congressional Unsung Hero Award and the Baltimore Raven’s Community Quarterback Award.