The Soapbox: No, Wendi Nix, Boycotting The Cowboys’ Sponsors Will Not Solve The NFL’s Domestic Violence Problem

Yesterday, ESPN’s Wendi Nix joined the crew at SportsCenter to talk about Greg Hardy. Hardy, if you don’t follow football, beat his ex-girlfriend badly while playing for the Carolina Panthers, was shielded by the NFL, had the charges of assault expunged, and was signed by the Dallas Cowboys. Deadspin shone a light on the whole horrible ordeal on Friday, when they published police photos of Hardy’s ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, after the assault.  

ESPN got flack for featuring all-male panels about domestic violence after the Ray Rice scandal, so it’s no surprise that Nix made a special appearance during the segment about Hardy. But she mainly just talked a lot of hot nonsense. In the clip above, she makes the argument that since the Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones is electing to stand by his man, calling Hardy a “leader” on Friday, the team’s sponsors should be held accountable. She specifically calls out American Airlines (who told TMZ the case would not affect their partnership with the Cowboys), AT&T, and Miller, and exhorts the audience to “let dollars vote.”

There are a few problems in Nix’s analysis, so let’s just start with the easy stuff. First, she claims that no one needed to see the police photos of Nicole Holder to know what happened to her. But would SportsCenter have even had a segment on Hardy’s violent tendencies if Deadspin hadn’t published those photos? Of course not. For commentators on a game that rakes in tremendous television viewership, it’s odd that the SportsCenter hosts would be so skeptical about the impact of visuals.

After her initial monologue, Nix also claimed that domestic violence “is not a gender issue,” and that it was offensive to say it was, because that ignores all the men in the NFL who haven’t beaten their wives and/or have spoken out against domestic violence. Which: O RLY? I had no idea the National Football League was drafting women and going on to pay them just mind-boggling sums of money in exchange for those women being physically strong, and then covering it up when those women beat their husbands. Oh, right, that’s because the NFL is exclusively a men’s league. Sorry, but in the context of a gender-segregated sport, you can’t claim that repeated incidences of violence committed exclusively by men, exclusively against women, isn’t a gender issue.

But then, too, there are flaws in this economic argument she makes. What if you don’t fly American (yuck), you don’t use AT&T (OK, guilty), you don’t drink Miller (NEVER), you don’t watch football anymore (because, for instance, you object to the fact that the NFL has done only the bare minimum to address the issue of domestic violence), and you still feel entitled to an opinion? What if you’re the wife or girlfriend of an NFL player who is being beaten and who knows, like Holder knew, that if you speak up, “nothing is going to happen to him anyways”?

“Voting with your dollars” isn’t a bad tack to take as a consumer, but it’s as “simplistic” a solution as Nix claims it is to say that Hardy should be ejected from the league. Policy changes and viable, concrete punishments for players who engage in what apparently is the NFL’s personal bad habit of domestic violence make a stronger show of support for victims than a consumer saying, “Oh, yeah, I won’t buy Miller. This week.” There are people – women, specifically – who are in danger because of the wishy-washy attitude the NFL has taken toward domestic violence right now, and withholding sponsorships and boycotting brands does nothing to bring those women justice.

Wendi Nix’s monologue was forcefully delivered, but it was basically just her hitting “all the right notes,” as she says – the pictures are bad, Jerry Jones is bad, capitalism is good, football is good, the NFL doesn’t need to make policy changes, everyone can enjoy the game now. But in truth, the NFL telling Greg Hardy that he will never touch a field again in his life would do more to create an environment in which players think twice about beating their girlfriends and wives, and in which those girlfriends and wives can speak out. And in the meantime, maybe those of us who feel entitled to an opinion can stop watching ESPN until they cover this ongoing problem of domestic violence without pandering to the NFL.


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