I love it, I hate it:  Football & Child Abuse.

I love football.  I have for a long time.  My dad loved the Pittsburgh Steelers, and as a result, it was the first team I ever loved.  They are still my #1, even if they’re going to suck this year.  My love of football may have started as an amateur at best, but grew over the years.  When I discovered the history of the badasses up in Oakland…holy cow…they were A.MA.ZING.  That’s what REALLY hooked me – watching old films of the Madden team: Biletnikoff, Willie Brown, Upshaw.  Damn Fine Team.   I was determined to know more than just the colors & team logos…so I learned.

Of course, I’ve lived in Chicago for 28 years now. If you don’t cheer for the Bears, living in Chicagoland, then you must be an alien.  Excitement & heartbreak from the so-called Monsters of the Midway have been par for the course for more than two decades.  Then, my husband introduced me to Fantasy Football back in 2009.  OMG.  Like I could enjoy watching more than I did already?!?!?  It’s a sickness now, truly.

Anyway. I love football. That’s all.  I like to think it was a gift from my dad, unknowingly, all those years ago.  It’s definitely a common thread and I so wish we could share Sundays in the fall.  I will always watch football – that will not change.  It is part of who I am.  It’s part of who we, my hubs & I, are.  We. Love. Football.

Child abuse is a different story.  I am also familiar with this subject.  I despise child abusers.  I recently stated so publicly on a juror’s stand while being interviewed to hear a case about a man who allegedly beat his daughter.  I was sorry of course, for feeling such contempt for a man whose story I did not know, and when asked if he wasn’t entitled to be heard without bias – of course I agreed he was, and I apologized, but stood firm: I cannot stomach hearing about it – “I have Zero Tolerance” is what I told him. I was excused of course, and it was the right thing to do.

I once tried to come to the aid of a 2 or 3 year old in a fast food drive thru line.  He had just been pulled out of the car into the drive-thru “street”, then locked out of it. Screaming. In a Drive Thru.  just a baby…  It was mortifying; I jumped out of my car and as soon as the mother saw me approaching him, she quickly got out and pulled him back in again.  I yelled obscene things at her, I’m sure. I don’t remember. I *did* write down the license plate number, and reported “the incident that didn’t actually happen” to the local authorities.  I imagine that boy has had a hell of a life – I hope someone came to his aid successfully at some point in later years.

My sister & I were abused.  For almost 7 years; no one knew, and no one came to our aid either.  We were children: it started when I was 7, and she was 9.  It continued until just before I turned 13, she 15.  Nobody knew. I bet reading this now, some people would think exactly that, “I never knew”- of course not (hindsight: just think for a minute).
Kids don’t “report” it.  They’re scared, they’re intimidated; oftentimes they don’t know any better.  They blame themselves.

We lived in secrecy for years. A farce of a life we had – looked great from the outside, but inside was nothing short of hell.  And I’m not talking about an occasional “switch” … what is your picture of abuse?  Did you ever see Mommy Dearest? I always thought it would have been nice to have a stepmother as nice as her.  She was the “good” example of an abuser.  We didn’t have her though, we had the bad version.

I’m proud to say that within 20 minutes of hearing the words come out of my mouth…the first and only time I mentioned a word of what was happening to us…my dad came and removed us from the situation.
It was immediate.  And it was permanent.

I said something: he acted.  He lived with us, but he ALSO did not know (this is how powerful shame can be, and the ability to keep shameful secrets).  When he knew, he fixed it – immediately.  I can’t imagine, having seen his reaction to finding out, the guilt he must have felt for not knowing.  Perhaps that’s why I am the way I am today.  I will not tolerate it either…and I want to know if it’s happening. Wherever it’s happening.

While my older two boys were in elementary school, I told them repeatedly that if they ever had an inkling of a friend or a friend of a friend being abused – to tell me. I would take care of them.  I would help. I explained with as much detail as possible with kids so young, that it’s horrible, but it happens – and these kids live in a prison of shame and fear.  It’s up to us to help them if we know about it.  Back when I was growing up, the phrase “child abuse” did not exist – people certainly never talked about it. I had never heard about it.  I have no doubt the act itself existed – as we lived it, but just imagine all the kids living in secret, in their own private hell…how many of us were there?

How many of us ARE there?

And what do football and child abuse have to do with each other?

Nothing.  NOTHING.

There is nothing about football, about the NFL, that brings out abusers. It. Is. Everywhere.
Doctors , lawyers, teachers, restaurateurs, sales clerks, garbage men, stock brokers, taxi drivers, janitors, and yes, even football players.  Your profession does not matter.

What matters is what you do when you find out about it.  Do you turn a blind eye, in effect, condoning it?  Or do you act, swiftly and without second thought: Zero Tolerance.

Trust me Mr. Goodell, trust me NFL, if you shit-can every disgusting mother-fucker who abuses their children, or abuses their spouses – you will not lose a football fan. We will still watch.  We love the game, but we do NOT love abusers.  And we lose respect for you when you DO turn a blind eye – not just to the act, but actually to the child who cannot fend for himself.  To the wives who cannot fend for themselves.

You have turned your back on children who need help.  You’ve told them “it’s ok that you suffer – I have my priorities.”  You have told them they don’t matter.  You have ensured they keep their silence.  You have ensured they don’t ask for help.

You have ensured those kids might get a beating at least one more time.

You have NOT made it clear that when your players do it, they lose their job. Period. That they pay the consequences for such actions. You have not helped to open the door for when that corporate big-shot is found to be doing it, he is fired immediately and has to pay consequences for such actions.  You have not helped to ensure that when people are found to be abusers, they know there are consequences:

immediate consequences.

With as big a platform as you have – and it is huge – you have such an opportunity to speak for the voiceless.  Why, NFL, why haven’t you done that?  I know football & abuse are not synonymous.  I know that one has nothing to do with the other – but you have a chance to show everyone that this kind of behavior is unacceptable, no matter your profession.
YOU have the mic.  YOU HAVE THE MIC!

I could give two shits about what AP can do for my fantasy football team.
I love the game, and no matter how great any running back might be – if he beats his 3 year old child – “out of love” or not – he is nothing more than a CHILD ABUSER.

Fire him.  Fire them all.
Zero Tolerance, please. PLEASE.