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Deadspin Writer Wants Sports Teams To Take A Different Approach To Domestic Violence


You might have followed the story of pro football player Josh Brown. He's the former kicker for the New York Giants who was released after his history of spousal abuse became public. Almost all the major professional sports leagues have been struggling with how to address the issue of domestic violence after years of essentially ignoring it. The default for many teams now is to punish players by suspending or firing them.

But Diana Moskovitz of the sports news website Deadspin has a different take. She says firing players may help teams save face and may make fans feel better, but it doesn't actually help victims. She lays all this out in a piece titled "Zero Tolerance For Domestic Violence Will Only Make It Worse." And she joins us now from NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Diana, thanks so much for speaking with us.

DIANA MOSKOVITZ: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: You say all this is grandstanding no matter how well-intentioned, hasn't made the complicated and life-threatening problem of domestic violence any less dangerous to the people who live with it. Why do you say that?

MOSKOVITZ: Getting tough has not solved everything. If it did, then we wouldn't still be struggling with this and especially with domestic violence. This is something that, as we know, victims can hide. So we need them to come forward because this is happening within the privacy of their own home. The main witness is also the victim, and so if you're not building a culture and an environment where a victim can come forward and ask for help without fear of retribution, what's the point?

MARTIN: The main reason you point out is that she says that you say that the NFL is really no different than any other workplace in that the victims don't want their husbands and - in most cases not all, it's - in most cases it's husbands - to lose their jobs because when they lose their jobs, it just makes matters worse. Why do you say that?

MOSKOVITZ: I say that because especially with the Brown case, it really illustrates this because Molly Brown - two investigators told them repeatedly that she was afraid of the NFL's involvement that she did not trust the NFL and that she was afraid of what this would do to Josh Brown's career. And that's even more so important because over and over she said one of their triggers was money. They fought a lot about money. So here is a couple where you know money is a trigger where you know that's what starts the fighting that can turn violent and you have to take that into consideration, especially if your mindset, which I think it should be, is how can we make the victim, how can we make Molly Brown safe? What does Molly Brown need?

MARTIN: What would that look like in your view?

MOSKOVITZ: I think that, you know, first you have to open up to the idea of handling every case differently because every family is different. Every set of situations is different, even within the NFL. And I also think it means just thinking more broadly about things like, for example, contracts. So NFL contracts are not guaranteed. And this has been an issue in the past with player injuries like concussions. They are under an immense amount of pressure to play through injuries because there's so much fear of getting cut because your replacement turns out to be just as good as you and maybe his contract is even less money. So that's a factor in something like domestic violence as well. Think about it. You're a woman in an abusive relationship, if you come forward and the public backlash is bad enough, your husband's cut.

MARTIN: That leads to, I think, an argument that the league might make which is that, you know, there is no constitutional right to play professional sports, especially not professional football. So if you have a person whose behavior is an embarrassment to the team and there are other people who can do that job why wouldn't you say, you know what? That's a shame. I feel bad. But you know what? There are other people who can do this job who are not hitting their spouses.

MOSKOVITZ: You know that is one way of looking at it. That's just not the way I've chosen to look at it. I think - because, again, that's just treating this whole situation like the business comes first. And certainly that's how the NFL has always been, but I don't think you can discount saying we have a person who might be in danger. Is what we're doing putting her in more danger? And the NFL and all these sports leagues are constantly billing themselves as these upright morally virtuous community leaders. But I think if they really were that, that's about making tough decisions.

MARTIN: That's Diana Moskovitz. She's a writer for The sports news website Deadspin. Her latest piece is "Zero Tolerance For Domestic Violence Will Only Make It Worse." Diana Moskovitz, thanks so much for speaking with us.

MOSKOVITZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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