Sports journalist Jemele Hill’s suggestion that next fall, NFL players wear both pink and blue ribbons — pink for breast cancer awareness and blue for domestic violence awareness, both observed in October — follows the tragic murder-suicide this past weekend of Kansas City Chiefs’ player Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. The tragedy focuses attention again on the sports world and domestic violence.
Hill, in a December 4, 2012, article on espnW.com (“End the silence about domestic violence”), cites former NFL quarterback Don McPherson’s admonition that it’s “easier” for the NFL to sport pink ribbons than wear blue ribbons that signify it’s teaming up with a feminist organization. McPherson feels that would “chip away at the image that is a direct link to their fans” — an image that sometimes reflects a “twisted masculinity” according to Hill. If this is the case, the NFL needs some serious public relations image counseling. Many NFL fans are women. After this weekend, the NFL needs more than pink ribbons to show it relates to its growing female fan base.
I just taught a class on media ethics in which I showed a graphic photo of an Ohio domestic violence victim named Becky Spellman. The photo showed Spellman in the hospital following an acid attack to her face perpetrated by her estranged husband. I asked my class if the newspaper should have used such a disturbing photo. The majority said they supported its decision to run the photo because it showed the reality of domestic violence.
Jovan Belcher brought that reality to the public — and the NFL –again last weekend when he shot his girlfriend and mother of his three-month old daughter before killing himself at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.
Hill wrote, “The moment of silence for domestic violence victims at Arrowhead Stadium was sadly fitting, because when it comes to acknowledging violence against women, the sports world is often mute.”
The sports world may not be speaking but, hopefully it’s listening. Hey, NFL: Wear pink — and blue.