Belcher tragedy should prompt the NFL to speak out against domestic violence

When I heard about the deadly incident of domestic violence involving the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, my first thought was what a tragedy ("Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher kills girlfriend, himself," Dec. 1).

That thought quickly led me to wonder if the NFL would now start talking about domestic violence. But it doesn't look good so far. On ESPN's NFL "Sunday Countdown," all the talk was about remembering what a great guy and player Belcher was. Only Tom Jackson made the point that he was more concerned about the girlfriend and the child left behind than about Belcher, who was a murderer.

This was not the first such case recently. Two other NFL players faced domestic violence charges this year. Kansas City Chiefs former running back Larry Johnson was arrested in October for choking his girlfriend. And Miami Dolphins receiver Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson was arrested in August for head-butting his wife.

These high-profile cases ought to give the NFL an opportunity to take a stand and speak out about domestic violence.

The NFL goes all out in pink in October to show concern for women's health. But it makes no mention of domestic violence, an issue also recognized in October.

Domestic violence affects more women than breast cancer ever will. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Reports of domestic violence incidents increase in the hours after an NFL game, especially when a team loses to a rival it was expected to beat.

Currently, domestic violence is addressed through the league's conduct policy, which allows the league to fine and suspend players. The league should revise its policy so it can require players convicted of domestic violence to participate in abuser intervention programs. It should also sponsor a public education campaign to talk about domestic violence and advise victims and abusers how they can get help.

Gretchen Tome

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