Revision 1: This blog post dogged me last night. I wasn’t content with it. It sought to praise Tony Dungy for his work to stop violence against girls and women … but I realized this morning that the story I wanted to tell started well before the NFL coaches lead their players to be good people. It starts with how the most successful COLLEGE football programs can do much more to help young players be good men who respect and value women and girls.
I mean men who accept that no means no and who don’t violate an intoxicated or unconscious woman to satisfy their sexual wants. Or who punch or beat up a woman or child who disagrees with them. It led me to substantially rewrite this post to acknowledge the good work of Coach Tony Dungy, Derrick Brooks, and Warrick Dunn, and how college football programs can educate their athletes, boosters, and students to change the behavior of young men and women.
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I am a feminist who likes to watch college football.
Yes, it is a violent sport that exploits so-called student-athletes. I wish it weren’t so. But I am not alone in this viewing interest.
Diane Roberts, an Oxford Ph.D. and FSU English professor, said in her book Tribal, “I can criticize college football, anyone with a functioning prefrontal cortex can.” But…she also says…
“I accept and embrace my Inner Barbarian….The game can be so beautiful, you see. Watching Rashad Greene get under a long ball or Dalvin Cook juke left, right, left, left, running under and around to make fifteen yards, gives me immense pleasure. You could argue that ballet displays the same gorgeous athleticism, and it does. So I’ll admit that violence is part of the pleasure too. America is the land of redemptive violence.”
FSU, my alma mater, has produced many incredible football players who became exemplary pro-players and men off the field. Honorable men such as Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn who build schools for at-risk kids and give homes to first-time homeowners. They are two of the finest men I have never met but who have been in my heart for years for their excellence on the field and off as educators and humanitarians. There are many other professional football players who have not received the acclaim of Brooks and Dunn but who are making the world a better place, too. They might use “redemptive violence” to win a game but they rein in their power and control tendencies in the rest of their lives.
They also use their experience with violence to calm troubled situations as Warrick Dunn did when three police men were gunned down in Baton Rouge earlier this year. Warrick Dunn spoke about his pain:
“My heart breaks for the families and law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge who have lost loved ones. I have been in similar shoes – it will change their lives and leave them reeling with questions for years to come. It is a shame – so many officers who are out there on the front lines have tremendous heart for what they do. These acts of violence don’t solve anything and if my voice can add to the movement to stop it – then I’d consider that a good thing.
Dunn’s mother–Corporal Betty Smothers, one of the first policewomen in the Baton Rouge police force–was killed in 1993 in the city late at night as she accompanied a store manager to make a bank deposit at an ATM. Police Corporal Smothers, a single parent, was working the extra security job to buy a home for her family. Dunn was but 18 with five younger siblings. In his statement published in full by the Atlanta Constitution on July 17, 2016, Dunn said that fathers need to do more.
“We can’t just sit around and talk about how horrible all this is – we have to do something. And that means it ALWAYS starts with the individual.
Jameis Winston is also a FSU graduate now playing as a second year quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. None of us will ever know exactly what happened when he and Erica Kinsman spent the night together in 2012 when Winston was the heir apparent quarterback at FSU. But we know it was bad. We also know that the pursuit of the national college football championship at any cost influenced what happened after that night. The FSU Athletic Department failed to administer justice. So did the Tallahassee Police. Roberts said it best:
Now, you’d think the majestic machinery of justice would start humming, and things would be investigated in the usual way. But football, especially football in towns like Tallahassee, lives inside a golden bubble, and the police treated Jameis Winston as though he traveled under a diplomatic passport.
. . .
Jameis Winston was FSU’s Faustian Bargain: we danced with the devil to win a national championship, lionizing a kid who may or may not be a rapist–we will never know–making excuses for him, attacking the young woman who accused him, refusing to admit that the local police treat football players differently from other young men in the community…
Florida State University ended up paying $950,000 to settle the Title IX lawsuit that Erica Kinsman brought against the university. The school also:
created the “kNOw MORE” campaign, seeking to educate students, faculty and staff about the meaning of consent, prevention, intervention and provide resources for sexual assault victims. The school has also hired a new Title IX coordinator, added six positions related to on-campus safety and published a Victims’ Rights and Resources handbook, among other initiatives.
So far, Jameis Winston’s exploits off the field as a Buccaneer have only garnered positive coverage. Let’s hope it continues.
I put Tony Dungy in the same Fine Man in Football category as Brooks and Dunn.
For the uninitiated,Tony Dungy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame a week ago. Dungy coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who won the Super Bowl the year after Dungy was forced out–many say unjustifiably–after four playoff seasons out of six total) and the Indianapolis Colts (who reached the playoffs for each of the six seasons that Dungy was there, including winning the Super Bowl in 2006).
Dungy was honored for many years of successfully coaching professional football teams. The Tampa Bay Times headline also asserted, “The Dungy Impact Goes Far Beyond Field.” Martin Fennelly reported several examples of how Dungy “always cared about much more than football.”
One thing that Tony Dungy did off the field was help Mark Merrell create the Family First, All Pro Dad nonprofit organization in 1997. This organization helps bring “intentional focus to fathers to help them love and lead their families well.” It partners with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence to
take a stand against domestic violence throughout the state. The partnership provides the opportunity to collaborate and share common messages about domestic violence prevention, strong families, and healthy relationships, focusing on engaging boys, men and especially fathers.
The website offers short videos as well as one page PDFs educating different audiences. I especially like this
PDF on FIVE THINGS DADS MUST TEACH THEIR SONS ABOUT HOW TO TREAT GIRLS.
Tony Dungy has not stopped with his All Dad Pro work. His essay for the Tampa Bay Times in May 2015, titled “Time for Men to Stand Up Against Domestic Violence,” offers resources and a compelling message worth your reading-time.
Clearly, domestic and sexual violence will not end on their own. The Zonta Club of Pinellas County cheers men like Tony Dungy–especially in sports where athletes are idolized and whose violent behavior off the field might be ignored–to use their influence to stop violence against women through education and redemptive love, and accountability through prosecution, probation, and parole. Violence against women, children, and animals is always wrong and we must do everything we can to stop it. We applaud the Derrick Brookses, Warrick Dunns, and Tony Dungys of the world!