“Conduct by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible puts innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, and undercuts public respect and support for the NFL. We must endeavor at all times to be people of high character; we must show respect for others inside and outside our workplace; and we must strive to conduct ourselves in ways that favorably reflect on ourselves, our teams, the communities we represent, and the NFL.”
Excerpt from NFL Personal Conduct Policy, courtesy of NFL.com, December 2014.
I have a scoop. I’m confident that no one else has written about it. I think very few people even know about it. For almost a year now, I have been pitching this opinion piece: The NFL published and promoted the walk-up songs chosen by the 2014 and 2015 draftees on its website, NFL.com. Songs that “are rife with misogynistic, hip-hop diatribes such as “hoes,” bitches,” and a slew of other highly offensive words and phrases that pump up violence against women, give props to drinking, dealing (and doing) drugs, and having enough NFL “paper” (money) to splurge on all of the above.”
I’ve pitched to mega media outlets, magazines, and online news blogs and websites. No one wants it.
I’ve been handed rejection after rejection. The rejections ranged from silence, to “Nice piece!”, to “… the makings of a good piece …”, to “Maybe”. And ultimately from all: “Sorry, but not for us.”
The vibe seems to be that my scoop is actually a “non-issue.” Much ado about nothing. Some young adult men that I know have hinted that this old(er) woman is a bit out of touch with the times.
Enough said. Read for yourself. Here’s the piece. Please chime in. Comment. I’m curious. Am I out of touch? Is this a non-issue?:
The May 2015 arrest of defensive end Ray McDonald on domestic violence charges (his third accusation of violence against women), and the subsequent decision by the Chicago Bears, who signed him in March of this year, to cut McDonald from the team, puts the spotlight back on the NFL and its culture of violence against women.
A big move in the right direction by the Bears? Is cutting McDonald a sign that the NFL is putting some muscle behind its ongoing campaign to change its misogynistic culture?
Let’s dig deeper. We don’t have to look much further than NFL.com. Plug in a search for “2015 Walk-up songs.” This is the second year that the draftees were asked to pick a song that would be played as each player walked across the stage at the NFL Draft. (This year it was at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University in Chicago on April 30 through May 2.)
And it’s the second year that NFL.com lists those songs, with links to the accompanying videos. Songs that are rife with misogynistic, hip-hop diatribes such as “hoes,” bitches,” and a slew of other highly offensive words and phrases that pump up violence against women, give props to drinking, dealing (and doing) drugs, and having enough NFL “paper” (money) to splurge on all of the above.
Is my jaw the only one dropping?
For it was less than a year ago that commissioner Roger Goodell, in a 2014 September press conference after his end run around former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice’s elevator-punch that knocked his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer unconscious, pledged that when it comes to violence against women, the NFL was going to get “our house in order.” That the NFL will “get it right.”
I listened to all 25, 2015 walk-up songs, and all 26 from 2014 (which are still on the website). And watched every single video.(In 2014, the website gave links to the videos. This year, the videos themselves were embedded.) In more than half, women were “bitches.” In some they were “strippers” or “hoes.” Some like “popping mollys” or “x” in their mouths … among other things.
I do get that each song choice means something to each draftee, and I understand that a song choice for a pivotal life-moment may not necessarily reflect personal attitudes towards women. And to be honest, I’ve been known to dance to Drake. That is not the issue.
The issue is that this list does not belong on NFL.com.
And that the NFL thinks it does, sings of hypocrisy; dismissiveness — a chorus of NFL cluelessness at best; a strain of ingrained, absolute misogyny at worst. And I see a public song and dance by Mr. Goodell and all the NFL higher-ups.
Because, by all appearances, no one in the organization got it. Apparently, there was no “Oops!” moment; no motion, in a year’s time, to at least take those songs off the website. No, instead, they did it again this year — so we can add songs such as Rich Homie Quan’s, “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)(“… Give that ho some x, she gone wanna sex every nigga in the set/ And now she screamin’ like oh, ooh, ooh …” ) to the list.
Equally disturbing is that, as of this writing, I have yet to find any commentary or press on the mixed message sent by the promotion of these songs. I see no signs of indignation, no visceral reaction either at the water cooler at work, or in print, about the publishing on NFL.com of racist, sexist, curse-filled content. Maybe some ESPN or NFL Network analysis? Some collective cringes to accompany the content of some of the videos? Nothing.
And what happened to that revised Personal Conduct Policy, which is not even a year old yet, that states, “We must endeavor at all times to be people of high character; we must show respect for others inside and outside our workplace; and we must strive to conduct ourselves in ways that favorably reflect on ourselves, our teams, the communities we represent, and the NFL …”?
Surely, a walk-up song, or 20, that repeatedly describe women as “strippers,” “bitches,” “hoes,” “pussy” — or my favorite: “an ass so fat” — would raise an eyebrow. Blink an eye? Hang a head? Apparently not.
So, please face the music, Mr. Goodell.
Does it make sense to post songs on NFL.com by artists who are talking up what they did with their “hoes” given that Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp was arrested in Phoenix in 2014 for allegedly soliciting a prostitute and assaulting two women?
Is it furthering the mission to “clean house” to have lyrics and videos on NFL.com that lionize “smoking weed in my Mercedes,” and proclaim that “the dope I sell is the purest,” when former safety, Darren Sharper, recently made headlines because of a plea deal surrounding the allegations that he drugged and raped at least nine women in four states?
And what about that 12-year-old boy who may idolize newly-drafted New York Jet Leonard Williams? He can log on to NFL.com to get Williams’ stats, along with hearing his song choice (video included): Dom Kennedy’s “We Ball,” which proudly hails that: “We ball, we drink /F*** hoes, rock mink /New watch, gold links/ She going down, no teeth/And I don’t like your legs ‘less they at the roof/Pedicure toward the ceiling, mollys in the cabinet too/Pop, pop, pop, popping pussy … ”
This one line, “I didn’t wanna f*** the bitch, the molly made me f*** her even though she average…” from the song, “March Madness,” by Future, kind of goes against the “Like a Girl” campaign to empower women that the NFL champions through public service messages and commercials, doesn’t it? Think about what that line can do for a young girl’s budding body image.
The NFL dropped the ball. NFL.com is one room that should have been tidied up by now. The walk-up song page has been dirty for over a year now. It they can’t get this “right,” how can they possibly get a whole “house” in order?
And here is the most recent NFL response to domestic violence and sexual assault, updated on August 12, 2015 and also posted on NFL.com.
You nailed it! Keep pitching that story!
Liz Perwin said:
Brilliant article Lois, and I’m appalled that no one — except your blog devotees — seems to think this is news! It’s always a shock to remember just how deeply ensconced in the patriarchy we remain. Thanks for trying to shake things up by pointing out obvious hypocrisies. And please keep trying!