Being Female, a Feminist, and Loving Football

I love my San Francisco 49ers. That team has held a special place in my heart for as long as I can remember. And not just because I’m from the Bay Area and I love football. When I was young, it was rare that the whole family was together, unless it was a Sunday and we were watching our Niners.

My parents started their business when I was one. And while I’m incredibly proud of them for creating such a success together, it wasn’t without sacrifice. My Mom stopped working full-time when I was eleven, but my Dad continues to be engrossed in his rapidly expanding new enterprise. This meant we didn’t see Dad very much. But one thing was always certain:

he was home on Sundays and that’s when we would watch our Niners.

We’d eat a meal together gathered around the television and at half-time my sister and I would go in the backyard with Dad to throw the football. Dad would be all-time QB, using his hand to draw out plays, and my sister and I would switch off on defense and offense. After running around a bit we’d go back inside to watch the rest of the game.

Although I wasn’t as captivated by the game back then as I am now, I was enthralled by how my Dad talked about the team. They weren’t just great players, they were great people. He would describe them as “class acts” and “real stand-up guys,” especially compared to other teams and coaches. A few of my bedtime stories were football stories. I remember how my Dad would describe Joe Montana entering a huddle, like he was in it, too. It’d go something like this:

“Joe stepped into the huddle. All the men were nervous, a lot depended on this next drive. They were down by three, deep in their own territory with less than four minutes left in the game, and Joe Cool couldn’t be calmer. He even pointed out that John Candy was on the sidelines, and immediately everyone relaxed. Because in that moment they knew they were going to win the game with their cool-as-a-cucumber of a quarterback. Joe knew, their coaches knew, hell, even the other team knew. And that’s exactly what they did. They charged down that field like they owned it and won the Superbowl. No jeering from our Niners, no endzone dances, just pure elation that they’d done it together and they shook hands with the other team. Joe and his teammates were real class acts. They deserved to with that Superbowl.”

Yes, I’m absolutely idealizing the time and circumstances in my foggy childhood memories. I’m not saying that things were perfect back then. I’m sure there were players, Niners or not, who had the same issues with violence and how they treated women as players do today. And all the other reasons players keep getting themselves arrested.

But that doesn’t mean the ideal can’t be reality.

This isn’t the first time an organization has taken notice that, for some odd reason, they have a higher instance of domestic violence than the national average. One example of an organization that changed its ways is our military. Hmmm… football is a violent sport and our military trains people to kill. I wonder if these activities could have some psychological repercussions we might want to address?

The good news with our military is that they reacted and set in place policies and procedures to prevent this from happening and if it did, to create safe places for abused people to go. They call these Case Review Committees (CRCs) and they are comprised of many different people who are there to help: psychologists, lawyers, substance-abuse counselors, social workers, and many more.

Of all the people in the NFL, I would think Roger Goodell would be for this.

He’s already screwed the pooch a few times over by opening his mouth and letting his personal thoughts on the various matters tumble out. He should really set an example for all the men in the NFL by saying something like, “This is out of my expertise. I believe it would be in the best interest of the NFL to organize a committee to take care of these types of instances. Not only would they give the cases the attention they need but they would know how to help prevent league members from being violent in the first place.” Unfortunately, he did not say that. He’s even sticking around instead of GTFO like he should and silencing anyone who might speak up against him.

The current system of punishment in place is the NFL taking playing time and money from the players. And that’s it. What’s it like when they return? They’re not required to go to therapy or even an anger management course. They just return to the field feeling like a criminal and its back to business as usual… until it happens again. This is not a solution.

The NFL has an immense amount of power and influence.

The Superbowl is hands down the most watched event in the U.S., period. And the best part is that there’s a large population that only watches it for the commercials. Not only can the NFL tap into that power but they can choose advertisers who would support, if not at least not directly oppose, their positions. However, they need to firmly take positions such as treating women right, leaving the physical violence on the field, and setting an example for young men and women. This can be achieved if serious concentrated effort is put into the movement that addresses what has happened as well as preventing it from happening in the future.

Until then, I, along with the other 11 females in my fantasy football league, will continue to watch our Niners and cheer for them while trying not to feel too conflicted about the sport we thoroughly enjoy watching. Because the solution isn’t to stop supporting football. It’s speaking up and attempting to change what we love into something that’s continually getting better.

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(not a random baby, that’s me dressed in my very first Halloween costume. Faithful since birth!)

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