Domestic Violence: Is the NFL Getting the Message, or Just Running An Ad?

Well, tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday, that annual excuse to spend 10 hours in front of a TV screen, stuffing your face, imbibing probably more than your share of alcohol, and screaming like a banshee every time “your” team scores a touchdown. (Can you tell I’m not a big sports fan? Unusual for a guy, I know, but that’s part of who I am.)

As everyone knows, the TV ads that run during the Super Bowl are among the most expensive – if not the most expensive – that the networks sell throughout the year. The half time shows involve performances that cost tens of millions of dollars for perhaps 20-25 minutes time, and evoke memories of past performers like Michael Jackson and Madonna. But it’s the commercial ads that really rake in the money. How much money? NBC is reportedly charging $4.5 million for a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl.

So it didn’t pass without notice when the NFL announced that it will run a Public Service Announcement (PSA) spot during the Super Bowl that will emphasize the importance of preventing domestic violence. The PSA was the result of a partnership between the NFL and No More, an organization formed last year to combat domestic violence and sexual assaults. The ad depicts a scene of a house where items have been knocked to the floor, and a woman is calling 911. The woman pretends to be ordering pizza, so that her abuser doesn’t become aware she is calling the police. The spot ends with the tagline: “When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen” and displays the website for No More. No NFL branding appears in the spot.

According to media sources, the NFL’s ad agency, Grey, developed the ad, paid for production costs, and donated the prime-time spot, reportedly worth $4.5 million. No More has also been running similar PSAs during other NFL games, and plans to post the PSA spot on their own web site in the near future. While the NFL should be lauded for this effort, as a Wrentham Mass. Domestic Violence lawyer, I can assure you that altruism is not the league’s sole motivator here: The NFL has come under intensive scrutiny since botching the Ray Rice domestic assault incident last year, which many observers believe reflected an organizational attitude of indifference when it comes to the league’s players engaging in domestic violence. So to be honest, this effort is part damage control.

As I said, I’m a Wrentham District Court defense lawyer. Foxboro Stadium, of course, is home to the New England Patriots, and Foxboro is within the jurisdiction of Wrentham District Court. As a Wrentham District Court domestic violence attorney, I’ve seen more than my share of clients that were charged with domestic violence in connection with attending a Patriots game. This is no surprise: Mix the violence of football, the heavy use of alcohol at these games, and a combustible experience can result. I’m not saying that football = domestic violence. It’s not that direct or that simple. But the nature of the sport, plus all the surrounding behaviors that go with it, can sometimes be problematic when it comes to domestic violence.

So if you’re a sports fan, enjoy the game. Just remember: The abuse starts and stops on the field. And if it doesn’t, you may find yourself suddenly needing a very experienced Massachusetts domestic violence lawyer.