Dear National Football League:
Yesterday, I watched my team play like I have for most Sundays since I was a little girl. As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I am used to the emotional ups and downs (mostly downs) associated with watching football. But it was not Christian Ponder's horrible performance yesterday that made me the saddest, rather it was the relative silence about the murder of Kasandra Perkins by her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, and his ensuing suicide. By not using your very public forum to talk about this horrific event in the context of domestic violence, you are missing a chance to make a difference in the lives of your players, your fans, and their families.
Sadly, Ms. Perkins' death is only the most recent story of family violence turned fatal that I have had to hear about. In October, a colleague's daughter, Tensia Martinez Richard, was shot to death by her estranged husband right here in Minnesota. He killed himself as well, and now my colleague is left raising her two orphaned grandsons. This summer, in nearby Hudson, Wisconsin, a dad allegedly murdered his three daughters to get back at his ex-wife. This has to stop, and it won't until men in positions of power and respect begin to speak out to other men about how domestic violence is not acceptable.
In October, when your coaches and players are wearing pink to support breast cancer awareness, I appreciate the solidarity as a female fan. Breast cancer will affect 1 in 8 women over the course of her lifetime. For domestic violence, that number is 1 in 4. Each year, 1300 deaths and 2 million injuries are caused by domestic violence. I am asking you to take a similar public stand against domestic violence and show me and other women who watch football that you think we have the right to be safe in our own homes.
Start with your players - tell them that the hits are only okay on the field, and don't protect the ones who take the violence outside the game. Then let your fans know that real men express their feelings with words, not with violence. All those boys who are watching, my four sons included, will listen to their heroes and remember the appropriate way to behave with their loved ones in the future. We need to make sure that no more women (or men) die and no more children are orphaned because of domestic violence.
I understand that such a horrible event can leave someone speechless. I can especially understand your feelings of discomfort that one of your players committed this terrible crime against the mother of his daughter. Please don't let Kasandra and Tensia and other women like them be forgotten in silence. You have the power and the forum to make a difference.
Minnesota Vikings Fan (Skol!)