The National Football League hardly has a reputation for doing enough when it comes to domestic violence. Since September 2006, there have been 50 domestic violence cases pursued against NFL players by authorities, according to USA Today. Recent cases, such as the high-profile case of Ray Rice, have only reaffirmed the league's problem. But it seems the NFL may finally be making an effort to change.
The league, in partnership with the anti-domestic violence organization NO MORE, recently released an ad that will air live Sunday during the Super Bowl. Based on a real 911 call, the ad pans over the wreckage of a domestic dispute while the audio of a chilling emergency call plays in the background.
The ad makes a powerful point — all without ever showing actual violence. As the camera pans across a wrecked home, a woman can be heard calling 911. In the recreated voiceover, a woman tells the 911 operator she'd like to order a pizza. At first exasperated, the operator then realizes the caller is in danger, using the pizza order as cover while her abuser stands nearby.
The operator who took the actual call recalled on a Reddit thread that the responding police officer found the woman visibly injured and her boyfriend inebriated. Call logs showed the same woman had made multiple domestic violence related calls in the past.
Part of what makes this ad powerful is the way it shows the almost ubiquitous nature of domestic violence, so much of which happens behind closed doors. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, and intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
The above video is the latest spot produced by NO MORE, which, according to the New York Times, is a small coalition of various anti-domestic violence and sexual assault groups that has been somewhat adopted by the NFL in the fallout from a series of player-related domestic violence incidents. The NFL began to feature NO MORE ads during games in late September 2014 and started to run spots featuring NFL players a month later.
Are these types of commercials enough? Are these spots, as well as its allegiances with other decidedly female-centric campaigns a PR move or signs of more systemic change? The NFL is certainly trying, but history is against them — a few commercials won't change the league's legacy of sweeping domestic violence among players under the rug.
Nevertheless, raising awareness about the violence that persists in our society and in our homes is undeniably valuable and necessary, no matter which organization is trying to do so. And considering that a whopping 111.5 million people tuned into last year's Super Bowl, an ad placed during this year's big game is an invaluable opportunity to impart this message of anti-violence to a vast audience.
The NFL's problematic history with domestic violence aside, it seems we can all agree that signs that the league may be effectively raising awareness about the issue is a step in the right direction.