The presentation on domestic violence given to NFL owners on Wednesday included a video by a former player appealing for recognition and action.
Joe Ehrmann, a defensive tackle for 10 pro seasons (1973-82), beseeches viewers to imagine what it would be like to see a loved one being subjected to abuse. He then urges intervention to curb such behavior.
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"Think about the role you have to raise up a generation of men that are going to have the clarity, have the moral courage to call out other men," Ehrmann says.
The video is part of a 40-minute presentation put together by the league with the help of a group of outside advisers. The goal is to educate everyone in the NFL about the dangers of spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual assault and other domestic violence topics.
"It was very thorough, it was good," Steelers President Art Rooney said.
Deana Garner, the league's director of player engagement and education, said the educational program being implemented will examine workplace policy, disciplinary considerations and "increasing understanding of the prevalence in society of these issues and how it impacts the NFL."
"So many people don't understand how complicated domestic violence is," Garner said. "This is a unique crime committed across all demographics."
Garner was encouraged by the reaction and input the presentation received from the owners.
"They were very engaged," she said. "They recognized the importance of this initial education program and that it will set a standard."
In a memo to owners this week, Commissioner Roger Goodell outlined how the NFL will re-examine its personal conduct policy. These are the first league meetings since Goodell admitted he was wrong in giving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice only a two-game suspension for punching his then-fiancee in an elevator. Following a torrent of criticism, Goodell announced stiffer penalties for future domestic violence cases. After video of the punch was released, the Ravens cut Rice and Goodell suspended him indefinitely. Rice has since appealed the suspension.
Other abuse cases involving Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson, Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy also have been made public. All three are on an exempt list, suspended but still being paid.
The goal of the NFL educational program of which the video is a part is to create a better understanding of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. It will concentrate on explaining the impact on victims, families and perpetrators; how to avoid becoming a perpetrator or a silent bystander; and how to intervene.
Garner said the program will be implemented immediately, with visits to several teams in October and to every team by the end of the season. Owners, team executives, coaches, players and league personnel also will receive instruction.
The owners were particularly eager to have the educational sessions scheduled for their teams, Garner added.
"Men play a critical role in reducing domestic violence by being active in interventions," Garner said. "Step in. Speak out. Have thoughtful conversations."
That's exactly what is stressed in the video by Ehrmann, who runs an organization called Coach For America, and has been one of the speakers who visits NFL teams during what the league calls "professional development sessions."
Lisa Friel, vice president of the Sexual Misconduct Consulting & Investigations division for T&M Protection Resources, is one of the advisers helping the NFL develop and carry out the educational program. She expected "laser-focused attention" from the owners on Wednesday — and she saw just that.
"It is important with this kind of education to start at the top and have it filter down," Friel said. "From the owner to the guy in the locker room who washes uniforms."
She also anticipates long-term benefits beyond team and league organizations.
"A lot of NFL athletes have been leaders throughout their lives," he said. "We can tap into that leadership role ... and it can help empower others."
Rita Smith, another adviser to the league on domestic violence, has had conversations with the NFL since 1998 about such educational programs. She noted that many owners asked about "how to make sure everyone in our club's organization" has access to educational courses.
"Their capacity to influence the dialogue being said inside football — at the youth and high school, college and professional level — is pretty huge," said Smith, the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "There's also the trickle down to the fans, family members and the sponsors. It's hard to measure the impact this could have."
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