Are professional football players predisposed to violence? 

That’s a question, among many others, that has West Side residents talking in light of the string of public scandals plaguing the National Football League.

Barely into the start of its regular season, the NFL is dealing with incidences of domestic violence and child abuse involving several high-profile — and some lower profile — players, like Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings.

Rice, who was caught on hotel videos released to the public punching his then-fiancé out cold and dragging her body from an elevator, has been suspended indefinitely by the league. His original two-game suspension, following the release of only the video showing him dragging her body, drew outrage from many feeling that it was too light of a punishment. 

Peterson has been indicted in Texas for beating two of his sons, both 4-years-old and one who had whelps and bruises on his legs, arms and back. The Vikings have deactivated Peterson, who originally received a two-game suspension but has since been given an indefinite suspension until his case is resolved. 

At least three other NFL players have been sidelined by the league or their respective teams because of off-the-field violence allegations. Critics of the league argue that, due to the nature of the sport, football players are predisposed to violence. Diehard and casual football fans have also weighed in on the scandals. 

On a recent afternoon at Malcolm X College, located at 1900 W. Van Buren on the West Side, students and residents tackled that complicated question. 

“Being a football player has nothing to do with being violent,” said Tyrone Kincaid, an MXC student who lives in Austin. “I am a football player and I do not go around whopping on my girlfriend or my nephews. They (Rice and Peterson) probably got something else going on inside emotionally.”

Resident Terica Gulley agreed.

“I don’t think football players are predisposed to being violent people. I do believe they have to suffer the consequences of the decisions they made. I think Rice should be suspended, but not indefinitely. Peterson, should go to jail for beating a child.”

Since the release of the second video showing Rice punching his fiancé in the evaluator — and his subsequent indefinite suspension — the NFL has instituted several policies addressing violence off the field. 

Over this past weekend, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a letter to all 32 NFL team owners mandating that their staff and personnel undergo training within the next month on preventing domestic violence and sexual assault. Goodell has been heavily-criticized for his handling of the Ray Rice case and domestic violence in general involving players. 

For critics of the league, a prison sentence is the most appropriate punishment for players found guilty. 

“They need some jail time to learn some life lessons,” Kincaid said, adding that men should be “highly-punished” for the crime. “They are great players, and I love to watch them play, but those consequences need to be dealt with. Hitting a female is not a manly way.”

As Rice’s and Peterson’s cases continue to play out, allegations of domestic violence has surfaced involving Arizona Cardinal’s running back Jonathan Dwyer, who allegedly head-butted his wife, breaking her nose, and threw a shoe at his 18-month-old son. Dwyer has been arrested in that case.  

To some, such players should be kicked out of the league. 

“I am surprised (at their actions) because football should be a sport to express your anger, and since they love football so much, the consequence should be for them to not play the sport any more. As an extra consequence, they should go to jail,” said resident Robbie Johnson.

For Kiera Williams, she believes Rice and Peterson to be role models and, as such, should be held accountable for their actions.  

“I think it’s a disgrace because now they are turning football into something that it totally is not,” Williams said. 

“When you play football, it’s supposed to be something you like. When you beat your wife and your children, you should go to jail. I feel just getting suspended is not enough, because where is the justice in that situation?”

But Monee Dixon of Austin said she did not see football players as role models. Still, she believes they should suffer consequences for their violent actions. 

“I think Peterson should go to jail because he’s in the NFL. No child should be beaten, but because he’s on TV and famous, his actions are worst. Rice should also go to jail for a very long time and be suspended from the team.”


Twitter: @Austinweeklychi

Terry Dean contributed to this story