Sept. 16, 2012 photo: Kansas City Chiefs' Jovan Belcher on the sidelines during an NFL football game. Police say Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend early Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo., then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide.
Men are finally owning up to the problem of domestic violence.
Last month, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings held a rally with hundreds of men in front of City Hall who pledged to end domestic violence.
This may have been the first large male-led event of its kind in the nation.
Importantly, it included the participation of the Dallas Cowboys. Former Cowboy greats Roger Staubach and Emmitt Smith spoke, as did current cornerback Brandon Carr and a team executive.
This was the right response to the plague of domestic violence in organized sports, as well as the rest of society.
Every day, three women in America are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands. And domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Last year, the problem of domestic violence in sports reared its head when the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his partner, Kasandra Perkins, and then shot himself to death. The Chiefs sent mixed messages, though. The organization held a moment of silence for victims of domestic violence, but it also honored Belcher.
The Chiefs, not the Dallas Cowboys, had an obligation to do much, much more - not only to raise attention to the problem but to pledge to combat it.
Some male athletes on all levels - high school, college, professional - violate women, but because they represent our schools and towns, they often get away with it.
Men worthy of the admiration that athletes get should not disrespect women. They need to use their considerable resources to deal with this problem.
Fortunately, athletes like Emmitt Smith are doing just that. He told the rally that as a father of three daughters, he looks at the statistics on domestic violence and realizes they mean “one of my daughters will be abused at some point by someone.”
The Dallas rally was a diverse one. Men from all walks of life were there: African-Americans, Latinos, whites; Christians, Jews, Muslims; sports fans and members of motorcycle clubs. They took a five-point pledge:
-never to hit a woman
-to speak out against abuse whenever they saw it
-to hold other men accountable
-to teach their daughters how men should treat them and not to be abused
-to teach their sons to respect women
Let’s hope that many more men take this pledge - and live by it.
Starita Smith, Ph.D., has been an award-winning journalist at the Gary Post-Tribune, the Columbus Dispatch and the Austin American-Statesman. She wrote this for Progressive Media Project. Distributed by MCT Information Services.
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