We’re sad to have to write this letter, but some things need to be said. Because our relationship is in serious jeopardy and, well, it’s not us.
You’ve spent a lot of time, and cash, courting us. And you’ve done a truly great job. We women have fallen for you, and hard. We’re now nearly half of your current fan base.
Which is why we feel you deserve this criticism. You invited us to the party. You’ve indicated you think we are important. And yet, let’s consider how you’ve lately chosen to show it.
Still! We’re not ready to give up on you. We want—so much—to be able to continue to spend so much of our free time—our Sundays and our Monday and Thursday nights—with you. But things have got to change. So we have some suggestions for how you might begin to restore our faith in you, and help you see the things in yourself that made us love you, and football, in the first place: the strength, the courage, and the passion to be the best you can be.
So here is our list of requirements. Yes, requirements. These are not suggestions. You say you love us? Then man up, NFL, and prove it.
Stop making excuses. Sure, football is a game that requires and rewards aggressive behavior. But the best players are those who unleash their aggression at the right times. Football doesn’t make people violent, and football players do not live by their own rules. And neither do you. On that note, whether or not you had the entire Ray Rice video long before it was released to the rest of us matters little. Everyone knew what happened before those elevator doors opened. Then was your time to have acted on what everyone knew was the truth. Instead, you were weak, and you were inadequate, and you took a gamble and you lost. We do not like losers.
Take responsibility. The fact is that you are the biggest entertainment organization in the country, if not the world. That title comes with certain responsibilities. You do change the course of the conversation in this country. You can influence America’s mind about important social issues. If you want to continue being the center of American entertainment, it’s time to take on that mantle. For real, this time.
Fire Roger Goodell. Or don’t fire Roger Goodell. Whatever you do, don’t pretend that any sort of resolution lies in the fate of Roger Goodell. Change does not spring from one man. What we need is an entire culture redirect—a total abolition of the “Proof or it didn’t happen” mentality, which surely did not start, and will not end, with Roger Goodell alone. And that takes time. It also involves far more than one person.
Show some respect—and stop paying criminals. However you choose to do it contract-wise, instead of continuing to pay players suspended for violent offenses, suspend them without pay—or at least without full pay. Use the money to donate to violence prevention and awareness efforts, victim recovery, and intervention programs, and to create awareness courses within your own organization.
Encourage—actually, insist on—more female sportscasters. There are more women on the sidelines and in front of the Teleprompters, but you can’t fool us: We know these women are not entirely considered equal to the men reporting on the game. We’re glad that more sports programming is beginning to exist for women—Hera included, as well as ESPNW, ESPN’s site for women and CBS’s upcoming talk show hosted by and for female fans. But let’s be honest: If women were included in the mainstream conversation, we wouldn’t need these “special” places to talk about the game we love just as much as the men. And we know that you—and much of the rest of NFL nation, including its many male fans—will have a harder time taking our opinions, and us, seriously if we’re not seriously represented in the media.
You have the power to impart change: In the players, in the media, in the minds of literally millions. So start doing it. Not just for us, but because it’s the right thing to do.