The issue of NFL and domestic violence is carrying a menacing handshake that tends to blind the reality of a greater societal problem, brought to extreme light by the visibility of professional athletes who compose our favorite sport.
According to Outside the Lines, citing Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson striking his then-pregnant girlfriend as the prominent example for the this story, the NFL has largely ignored any personal conduct policy.
In 1995, with Shawnda four months pregnant, the couple got in an altercation at their Cincinnati-area home. "He hit me in my stomach," Shawnda said. "And when he hit me in my stomach, all I could feel was pain." She described it as being "grazed" but said she was concerned enough about the baby that she called 911. The police came and arrested her husband.
From the start, the Bengals appeared to have no intention of punishing Wilkinson, whom they had signed to a six year, $14.4 million contract -- the largest in franchise history. One day after Wilkinson's arrest, Bengals owner Mike Brown described the incident as "a blemish" and suggested that Wilkinson was unlikely to be suspended.
Brown told reporters: "Whatever punishment he receives -- and he will receive a lot of it -- will be how people perceive him. That will be a burden he'll have to carry for some time until he makes up for it."
Per Outside the Lines, the league faced "mounting public pressure to take action", but never did. For his part, Wilkinson denied the allegations to Outside the Lines, texting: "You are doing a story of a lie, which is amazing to me. I have been with my wife 13 years along with all my kids and none of them can say they ever seen me violent at all. You couldn't find not one person on earth that would ever say I'm a violent person let alone hit a pregnant woman in the stomach, its a total lie as The Lord God is my witness, you should ask her daughter or her mother or anyone who knows her what type a person she is and the truth."
According to OTL, which examines the league's position and response to domestic violence convictions prior to the current personal conduct policy, there were no suspensions by the NFL prior to 2000 for a domestic violence conviction.
"And out of 48 players considered guilty of domestic violence under the league policy between 2000 through 2014," the report reads, "the league suspended players for one game or not at all in 88 percent of the cases. Twenty-seven players -- or 56 percent -- received no suspension, and 15 others were forced to sit out one game."
This wasn't a quiet event in '95 either. Joe Posnanski wrote in 1995:
Dan Wilkinson appears warm, friendly, charming. He travels around Cincinnati and tells kids to stay in school. He raises money for charity. He is one of the good guys, that's what we believe, that's what we want to believe. He has been charged with hitting his pregnant girlfriend. He has pleaded innocent.
Brown said the team will provide counseling for Wilkinson, and Brown is considering having an expert on domestic violence speak to the team.
Read the report here.