National conversation highlights Black victimizers, yet overlooks victims
By Charles Hallman
Domestic violence or child abuse isn’t just being done by Black NFL players — it’s a society problem that needs addressing, said the Minnesota Vikings’ highest ranking Black front office executive.
The Adrian Peterson child abuse allegations is the latest in over 40 NFL players this year involved in domestic violence legal cases. Reportedly the player left bruises on his young son after spanking him. He is now suspended with pay, and his court appearance is scheduled for next month.
The National Football League last week announced that each team, including its players, coaches and other club personnel, soon “will participate in education sessions” on domestic violence and sexual assault. A new “player conduct policy” also is being designed, and the league has brought in consultants as well.
“I’m not taking sides or saying who’s right or wrong [but] the way we view societal issues” must change, stated Kevin Warren, the team’s executive legal affairs vice-president and chief administrative officer. During a scheduled appearance at Oak Park Center in North Minneapolis last week, prior to the events that forced the Vikings to suspend its star player, Warren told a small monthly breakfast group, “I think this past week have shown us that there’s a new world order on how business is going to have to be done in professional sports. We either can run from it, or we can use our platform as a pioneer to help rectify and to fix some of these societal issues,” adding that this is more than a bunch of Black NFL players involved in abusive activities.
“There was a convergence…from a race standpoint in issues involving domestic violence and child abuse. It just happened to play out in sports, and happened to play out here in Minnesota. There are people right here within walking distance that probably had issues with children yesterday, or committed an act of domestic violence or the unfortunate recipient of domestic violence.”
However, since Black players have been involved, and the league players are mostly Black, the NFL seemingly is not including Black women in their education awareness efforts. The Black Women’s Roundtable, a national advocacy group, last week criticized the league after it announced that three White females were hired as consultants.
“Black women are the most likely group of women to experience domestic violence, and are nearly three times as likely to die as a result of domestic violence than White women,” said the group in an ESPN.com report last week.
“It’s not unusual for big institutions to be racially tone deaf,” stated Loretta Ross, a leading expert on women’s issues. In a MSR phone interview last week, Ross added that although the three White female consultants have expertise, “They are not demonstrating any particular sensitivity to the things that Black people in general — and Black women in particular — are undergoing and dealing with.”
The NFL rather could have reached out to various Black-oriented organizations with lengthy expertise in domestic abuse issues, continued Ross. “I can think of any number of women who are amazingly qualified to advise the NFL.”
Child abuse is a national problem, but it gets highlighted whenever a celebrity or a sports figure such as Peterson is involved, says University of Minnesota Social Work Professor Dr. Oliver Williams. “We need to give some attention to the issue, regardless of the person who does the abusing,” added the executive co-director of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, Minneapolis/St. Paul site. “When you see child abuse occur, or domestic violence occur, it’s important to be able to challenge it. You don’t want to let the person off the hook for the behavior. But the [Peterson] case has not been fully investigated yet.”
CNN last week reported that the Black community supposedly is split on the spanking issue.
“My mom spanked me. That is not a beating. There is a difference,” says CNN anchor Don Lemon, who is Black. Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley adds, “I’m from the South. Whipping — we do that all the time.”
Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter, however, questioned the practice. “It’s the 21st century,” he pointed out.
Spanking oftentimes is used by Black parents to “teach” the child a lesson in doing right, said Williams, who pointed out that earlier generation Blacks, such as his parents, didn’t have modern child-rearing strategies at their disposal. “I’m 61 years old. My mother spanked me and my older brothers and sisters,” he admitted, adding that as a father he chose not to spank his children. “Oftentimes when African Americans think about violence, they weren’t thinking about spanking. A lot of times they trace it back to slavery and back to the South — culturally it is something that we deal with.
“I had a conversation with a former student of mine,” continued Williams. “She was re-thinking about spanking [her] child because she wants him to behave and respond in a respectful manner. She said she’s afraid not to spank him.”
“I can relate to what [Peterson allegedly] did to his child — my grandmother was a Southern woman,” said Crystal Flint, a local wife and mother of two sons. “AP is a product of his upbringing. When you know better, you do better.
“I got a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old. It’s time to have a conversation with them. How am I disciplining my child? What am I passing on to him?” asked the mother.
When asked both Williams and Ross has expressed concerns on how the mostly White media thus far has reported the Peterson case — it has been handled differently simply because it involves Blacks, reiterated Williams. “Maybe he was a little overzealous in the way he dealt with a four-year-old boy,” he noted on Peterson.
Williams also questions how details of the case still under investigation — especially pictures — is becoming public: “[Who’s] the person who is releasing the [child’s] pictures? It’s not the wife, and certainly it was not Adrian Peterson. This goes against the privacy of Adrian Peterson and his family.” The case instead “should go through the investigative process.”
The White-controlled media seems to delight in “showing [that] Black men [aren’t] saints,” observed Ross. “It’s kind of hard to ignore the racial undertones that are here.” The public already sees Peterson “as a criminal” — he’s been “O.J. [Simpson] vilified,” she said.
Ross strongly stated, “It feels very much like ‘open season’ on Black males. But they’re using Black women and children as the bullets. And they are not caring about the bullets. They’re caring about not only the target, but the symbolism of the target or what the target represents.”
Information from other published sources were also used in this report. More on this in this week’s Another View on the MSR sports page.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.