Domestic Violence Expert’s Resignation Damages The NFL’s Credibility

Deborah Epstein, one of the foremost advocates on domestic violence in the United States, has resigned from the NFL’s Players Association on Violence Commission. It was formed following the Ray Rice case and the NFL’s fumbling of disciplinary standards.

Epstein, director of the Georgetown University Law Center’s Domestic Violence Clinic, was asked to join the NFL’s commission in 2014.

She told National Public Radio her resignation was due to ineffective communications with the NFLPA. The NFL continues to be plagued with issues, with one of its most egregious examples being Greg Hardy.

“I brought a number of ideas to the commission about ways in which they could deal with the domestic violence problem in the NFL,” she says. 

The report compiled short-term and long-term recommendations.

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Deborah Epstein recently resigned from an NFL committee tasked with addressing domestic violence. “I simply cannot continue to be part of a body that exists in name only,” she wrote in an op-ed.

However, according to Epstein, that report sat on a shelf since it was filed in June 2016.

“The Player’s Association contacts that I have would welcome those ideas, tell me they were eminently doable, but that they had to get kicked down the road because ‘It was the Super Bowl, it was the draft, it was the season,’ ” she says. “And I would come back and reiterate my suggestions, and eventually I found that communication would just die on the vine. I realized very  little, if anything, was going to happen.”

For their part, the NFLPA appears to believe the miscommunications were a matter of misunderstanding.

NFLPA Deputy Managing Director Teri Smith says the association never had plans to publicly release the study. 

“We did circulate that report to our player leadership, and we have implemented a number of recommendations made by [Epstein], both in that report and over the life of the commission being in existence,” Smith says.

Citing an NFLPA spokesperson, ABC News says, “Those recommendations include the hiring of a director of wellness who is a trained clinician, in depth crisis training for staff who work with players, greater emphasis on marriage counseling and enrichment events focused on couples.”

Epstein, who signed a confidentiality agreement with the NFLPA, says she can’t divulge what recommendations she provided in the report.

“Although there are ways to create confidentiality about individual people without creating confidentiality about the recommendations that emerged from such a report, I’m not allowed to talk about either one,” Epstein says.

Whether the failure to act on recommendations by one of the top experts on domestic violence in the country is an act of purposeful ignorance or a matter of misunderstanding is up for debate. 

However, the fact that she has decided to part ways with the NFLPA is a definite blow to the credibility of the league’s so-called efforts to counsel against the heinous act of domestic violence.

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