by Ifeoma Aduba
Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us. (As I type this, the online Countdown to Kickoff tells me there are 4 days 8 hours 14 minutes and 46 seconds remaining.) In terms of most-watched programs in American television history, Super Bowls are right up there. It is literally a defining moment in history. Whatever may draw you to that viewing – commercials, friends, Lenny Kravitz during half-time, or the actual sport – when you kick back with your plate of wings, pigs in a blanket, hoagies, chips, and a cool beverage, you will actually be part of a defining moment in history. I’ll admit – the only reason I know who is playing is because “Deflate-gate” is one of my most favorite scandal names ever. I’m totally in it for the joy of hanging with friends while snacking on junk food and taking too brief a moment to ogle Lenny Kravitz. But I’ll be part of history, which begs the question….
In my history-making moment, what will I stand for?
The NFL and domestic violence have enjoyed an interesting relationship this past year. Perhaps you’ve been witness to it? It’s been difficult to avoid – airing on a radio, television, or web page near you.
In pre-Super Bowl action, Sports Illustrated will run an edgy domestic violence ad, part of advocacy group UltraViolet’s online ad campaign. I’m repeatedly surprised by the need for an obvious and violent image, but I think the ad makes a point about domestic violence in the NFL. I don’t agree that getting rid of Commissioner Roger Goodell resolves the issue of domestic violence and the NFL, but it most certainly is time to address the unanswered cases of domestic violence.
Airing on game day will be an ad based on an actual 911 domestic violence call. The woman calling 911 pretended she was ordering a pizza in order to be able to make the call and get the help she needed. Fortunately, the 911 operator realized she was in trouble and sent the help needed. That commercial ends with “When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen.” “Us” in that scenario isn’t just 911 – it’s everyone. You, me, that guy in the arm chair hogging all the chips during the game. We have to listen really carefully, because it is really hard to talk.
I keep coming back to where I was last September. The news of Ray Rice was swirling, Goodell was being criticized, and public opinion was overflowing. I wondered if Janay Rice was safe. We may all want to believe that we have immunity, would choose differently, and would never be in the victimized position. I wrote Dear Mrs. Rice, hoping that she and others would begin to know that I am sorry. There is no judgment. I’m sorry that this is happening to you. You do not deserve this, you are not alone, and this is not your fault.
Through it all, the NFL seems to be on track for record profits. All this attention and awareness raising has been valuable. Meanwhile, stadium attendance has increased along with ratings and that means more dollars into the NFL. When I kick back on Sunday to watch the game (or Lenny Kravitz) I’ll add to that count. I’ll be contributing to the NFL. What about organizations on the ground dealing with domestic violence?
As the ads air and commercials plead for #NOMORE, AWP and other domestic violence organizations will be doing what they do. AWP will answer thousands of 24-hour hotline calls. We will provide emergency shelter and individual counseling. We will counsel children as they find their way out of the violence. We will talk to elementary, middle, high school, and college-age students about healthy relationships and how they can help themselves and others. We will work with professionals, faith communities, clubs, and more, all to prevent violence before it starts and ensure that when it does occur, we know how to safely support those in need. We will move individuals out of crisis and into truly empowered lives that can be lived safely and joyfully. AWP does this work day in and day out because it stands for a community where everyone is safe and everyone is flourishing. That’s why, this Super Bowl Sunday, AWP is issuing the Tailgate Fund Challenge. Be a #NFLGameChanger and, while you enjoy prime seating in front of your big screen, match what you’ve spent on your game day menu with a tax-deductible contribution to AWP.
In my history-making moment, what will I stand for?
In the words of Abraham Verghese in Cutting for Stone, “We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime.” And in the end, in our history-making moments, “Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.” I must do more than ogle Lenny Kravitz. I must rise to the Tailgate Fund Challenge and be a #NFLGameChanger.
Enjoy the game. Enjoy Lenny Kravitz. Take the Tailgate Fund Challenge. Be a #NFLGameChanger. Stand for Super Bowl Sunday and individuals who have been victimized through domestic violence. End the violence while building a society where all individuals are safe in their relationships and can flourish.
Ifeoma Aduba is the Executive Director of A Woman’s Place and a Member of the Board of Directors of the Bucks County Woman’s Advocacy Coalition