The NFL’s domestic violence problem was largely overshadowed during the 2015-2016 season by its concussion and injury problems. The fact that far fewer star players got arrested for beating the women and children in their lives in the past year than did in the year before could, by some metric, be taken as a sign of progress–but the fact that a number of those men (including less-than-repentant players like Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy) were back on the field for the current NFL season shows how much there really is to do still.
While the NFL has made overtures to taking the issue seriously by funding the No More campaign and implementing new penalties for players guilty of violence, there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical about how seriously the league takes the issue. (It doesn’t help that a player who attempts to draw attention to the cause on the field can be fined for doing so, either.) In other words, the question is really, “Are the NFL’s campaigns about women’s issues just a way for the league to market itself to female fans?”
One group of women who think that might be the case are the ones who created the provocatively-titled “Topless Women Discuss The NFL” PSA. That name is a bit of bait-and-switch for those who aren’t expecting a frank, shocking call-out of the league’s hypocrisy in slapping pink cleats on players every October (but fining them for sending breast cancer awareness messages during unauthorized times, as well). The spot itself is rather just a direct message to fans, from women who aren’t wearing shirts, but who are wearing the bruises you might associate with domestic violence: tell the league to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to domestic abusers. Hashtagging the spot #OneHitMeansOut, the PSA urges ever more strict rules from the NFL in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. While that might carry unintended consequences (would a player’s partner report what happened if doing so meant the immediate end of his career?), it’s a question worth asking at a time when fans are being forced to choose between cheering while abusers play or abandoning the game all together. There are no easy answers here, but the spot–from the new group Made By Women Media–raises the question in a way that’s impossible to ignore.