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Reader reaction: The NFL and violence

Yesterday we ran a viewpoint piece in response to the video that TMZ released of Ray Rice punching and dragging his then-fiance, now wife Janay Palmer, in Atlantic City. The writer, a female Saints fan, goes beyond the immediate situation — Rice’s domestic abuse and the Raven’s and NFL’s delayed decisions to terminate Rice’s contract and suspending him indefinitely — and addresses sexism in the NFL, which she argues underlies the the perpetration of domestic violence.

Since violence and gender relations are extensively tied to the larger community, we are interested in hearing what our reader’s think — not only about the Rice Scandal, but also about the link between the violence on the field and violence at home and in the street — we are calling for reader’s to submit their opinions, some of which we may publish on the site. NolaVie reader and contributor Eleanor Keller responds:

Just how much does violence in football perpetuate violence in a social climate?

Just how much does violence on the football field perpetuate violence in homes and on the streets? Photo: USATSI

Megan [Peck’s] article on the NFL, women and domestic violence was spot on. I have something to add as the mother of a son who loves sports.

My son is 36 years old (smart, handsome, a Saints season ticket holder and single BTW) and when he was 5 or 6 years old he wanted to join the sports teams at our local playground just like any other normal kid. I enrolled him in every sports program throughout the year in which he wanted to participate. As the doting mother, I went to most of the practices and all of the games.

I was appalled by the conduct of both the children and, especially, the coaches. By the time he was 8 or 9 years old, he was tired of the coaches getting in his face and screaming at him and I was equally as tired of watching the poor excuses for coaches. And I wasn’t the only disgusted parent. I pulled him out of the programs.

I watched “coaches” yell at small children for infractions, mistakes and poor skills instead of actually coaching them to improve their playing. How does yelling at a child make him better?

I watched the end of games where the coaches didn’t even teach the kids to line up to shake hands with opposing team members. I think it is very important to learn how to lose graciously and congratulate the athlete who is better than you.

I think sports programs should put as much emphasis on “how to lose” as on winning, because, let’s face it…we pretty much lose just as often in the real game of life as we win. Maybe more.

The violence that athletes exhibit on the field is often learned early in playground programs. And for athletes whose violence is never curbed on the playground, it seeps into every aspect of their lives. Hence, we get athletes beating up their significant others in elevators. They have been taught all their lives that roughing up your opponent is a good thing…it’s passion for your sport. So when your significant other is opposing you in any way, you respond the same way you do on the field. You hit them hard.

My son did participate in sports in his school programs. I found the level of coaching in school programs to be vastly better because these coaches were always teachers, too. They were able to carry their teaching skills to their sports programs. My son played baseball and Lacrosse. We lived in Missouri for 6 years and the schools have Lacrosse programs there. I even volunteered at all of the Lacrosse games at his high school as a timekeeper mom.

Two sports I NEVER allowed him to play were hockey and football. I find these sports to be horrendously violent. I know that in this town I would be strung up from the highest tree for saying this but I believe it down to my bone marrow. The kinds of “skills” that were taught in these programs were not the things I wanted my son to learn.

And let me just say this for the record. My son grew up to be a very masculine 6-foot, athletic man. He runs about 10 miles a day and stays athletically fit. But I guess the thing that I am most proud of is that he treats women as his equals, has a healthy respect for them and admires the most his female friends who can challenge him mentally as well as physically.

I love and admire my son for the man that he has become, but sadly, I don’t think any athletic program helped to form the man that he is today.


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