It’s been a rough year for the National Football League, and before you roll your eyes and stop reading because you think this is another Deflategate piece, think again. Before the country was obsessed with the size of the footballs coming out of the New England Patriots’ locker room, people across the country were talking about violence, and more specifically dating violence, after a video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice beating his fiancee in a casino elevator circulated the Internet.
On Tuesday the Patriots attempted to switch the conversation back to domestic violence by announcing their partnership with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. In a press conference, Healey and Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced their “Game Change: The Patriots Anti-Violence Partnership”.
Game Change is a program that promises to contest “youth violence, domestic violence and sexual assault through educational programming in 90 public Massachusetts high schools.”
Kraft has already donated $500,000 to this cause and the Attorney General’s office has donated $150,000 to the cause. The Boston Globe reported this money will “cover the cost of training students, faculty and coaches, as well as in-depth programming at 30 of the schools. That programming will involve local domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy organizations and help students and families already dealing with violence.”
Domestic violence occurs more often than people might think. According Jane Doe Inc., “one in seven adult women in Massachusetts has been a victim of rape in her lifetime and nearly one in two women has experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetimes.”
It’s in moments like this people realize that the Patriots’ celebrity extends much farther than UGG commercials, late night talk shows and Nike. The Patriots’ celebrity status as a whole has the power to make actual change occur on an issue that matters to so many across the country.
In the press conference Tuesday Kraft said just that, “the attorney general convinced us that the celebrity of our team could help bring more awareness … I think she’s probably right here because we want young kids to pay attention and know that this is important.”
Healey also spoke at the press conference, saying “too often we don’t see it until it’s too late. This program will help prevent violence by reaching students at an early age and teaching them about healthy relationships, how to recognize warning signs and intervene.”
By partnering with the Patriots, Healey has capitalized on the cool factor. Domestic violence has always been a hush-hush topic and something that has not really been covered by many health classes. Students across Massachusetts have not been paying attention. However, if students are seeing their Sunday night superheroes on television talking about it and supporting victims of domestic violence then that would open a forum for students to discuss these issues.
It is easy to feel sympathy when reports of domestic violence occur on the nightly news, but it is not as easy to put your money where your mouth is and work towards actual change. This is what the Patriots and the attorney general have done this week.