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ChalkTalk – The NFL, Ray Rice and Women!

What we can learn from the NFL’s Handling of the Ray Rice Issue?

I have listened to numerous interviews and ready opinions about how the NFL has handled the Ray Rice issue. By now most of us have heard about if not seen the graphic disturbing video of Rice striking Janay Palmer Rice, his now wife, back in February in an Atlantic City elevator. If there is one thing it seems everyone agrees with it is that Rice’s actions are unacceptable and horrific. There are a lot of adjectives that describe what took place in that elevator and what the video shows…none of them positive or uplifting. My prayers and heart go out to Janay, her daughter, and their entire family. I’m also praying for Ray.

The video is beyond disturbing, and now it has been released and played over and over again it’s time to put it on the shelf. Point made and well taken. I’m not talking about covering it up or sweeping it under the rug but now it’s time to recognize the pain the ongoing playing of this video is undoubtedly causing Janay and she is the victim here. The video has allowed an even broader conversation about domestic violence and how it impacts women and entire families. That the conversation is taking place is a good thing. There is no need to keep showing that video and I hope responsible news outlets will consider referencing it without showing it. Not necessary and at this point it adds nothing positive to the story.

Sports are a microcosm of society and that is why the stories on and more specifically off the field move people so much. Sports are one of the few things that galvanize people beyond their personal circles and preferences. In fact, it brings people who might otherwise never connect together. Albeit for temporary moments or seasons, nevertheless it’s a unifier and that’s why sports matter so much. Of course wins and losses are important, but sports is about so much more. That is why we are so passionate about the issues surrounding sports and the stories that go beyond highlights and scores.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from the NFL’s handling or mishandling of this case from its inception. When you look at the hierarchy of the NFL’s executive team it is devoid of a woman. Not to over simplify things and say that if there was a woman at the table when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided to suspend Rice for only two games it would have changed the ruling but I believe it would have mattered and quite possibly impacted his decision. The NFL, like any other entity or corporation needs diverse people and voices at the decision making table. The NFL is often credited for doing a great job of protecting the shield and ultimately its brand, but right now that shield is tarnished and little damaged. So lesson number one is being more inclusive especially of the people you are trying to reach. The NFL, like a lot companies, says it wants to reach more women. Why, because we are a very important demographic.

Last September the NFL partnered with Vogue Magazine and held a celebrity filled, high-fashion event highlight the NFL’s women’s apparel line. Women make up 45% of all NFL fans and are known for buying the most apparel and gifts. You heard me right, many of us are shoppers. According to an article in Forbes Magazine about marketing: “women drive 70-80% of all consumer spending and many are active NFL fans, going to games, shouting for their teams, hosting game-day parties, playing fantasy football and generally participating in much of the same activities as their male brethren.” So if for no other reason than that it makes good business sense, women matter to the NFL and the powers that be should be pulling all nighters to develop the appropriate sincere message to get them back in the fold. Wasn’t it last season that the League instituted that ‘only small cell phone size’ handbag policy?

Let this be a lesson for not only the NFL but also any entity interested in a female audience or consumer. Of course doing what’s right is always a good thing, but doing what’s smart works also. You want women to embrace you and or your product? Get someone on your team who understands what moves women and what matters to us. We are wives, mothers, business owners, teachers, community leaders, attorneys, engineers, journalists and more. We are innately nurturers and even the most accomplished and career driven woman likes to be acknowledged and respected as such. To dismiss what happened to Janay in that elevator as a simple mistake and not realize the far-reaching implications to do some real soul searching and figure out how to move forward for not only the brand but its consumers as well. Remember, nearly half of the League’s consumers are women.


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