Group tries to bring attention to NFL and domestic violence
UltraViolet, a feminist group that claims 600,000 men and women as members, launches a media blitz criticizing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for not doing enough to address domestic violence by players.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PHOENIX — Truck driver Danny Como drew stares from passers-by as he navigated his flatbed through the cordoned-off streets surrounding downtown Super Bowl festivities.
And no wonder, because a nearly 13-foot-high billboard on the back of his truck read: “55 Abuse Cases Unanswered” and was accompanied by a “#GoodellMustGo’’ hashtag. The truck was one of four with the same message circling the hotel, convention and airport areas here Thursday as the group UltraViolet launched a media blitz criticizing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for not doing enough to address domestic violence by league players.
“A lot of people stop to take pictures of it,’’ said Como, who works for a subcontractor hired by UltraViolet, as he eased the truck to a stop just two blocks from the popular NFL Experience exhibit. “I was out at the airport circling before, and it’s definitely getting noticed.’’
Besides the trucks, UltraViolet, which claims 600,000 men and women as members, also took out five-figure advertisements with the online sites of Sports Illustrated and The Huffington Post. Sports Illustrated initially balked at running the ads but later said it had made a mistake and ran them.
One ad running on the magazine’s website is a 15-second video showing a woman being tackled by a full-padded football player. The words “Let’s take domestic violence out of football’’ are read by a woman’s voice during the spot.
The campaign also features banner ads with the same “#GoodellMustGo” hashtag as the truck billboards.
“It’s good that they’re doing this,’’ Esmie Rosario, 36, said as he read the truck’s message from the sidewalk. “You can’t forget about everything just because they’re playing the Super Bowl.’’
It’s no coincidence the group chose this week to run the ads, given heightened interest surrounding the big game Sunday. UltraViolet chose Thursday to release results of a poll it had commissioned, showing 58 percent of women surveyed disapprove of the NFL’s handling of domestic abuse.
The poll also found that 67 percent of women surveyed think the NFL should be doing more to combat domestic abuse in the league and that 55 percent hold a “less favorable opinion” of the league after its handling of the Ray Rice case and others that surfaced this season.
Rice, then a Baltimore Ravens running back, initially was suspended two games by Goodell after his arrest for a confrontation with his now-wife, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City, N.J., casino last February. A security video showed Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer from an elevator.
But in September, a second video from inside the elevator emerged on TMZ, showing Rice knocking out Palmer with one punch. A public outcry ensued. The Ravens released Rice, and Goodell, who said he had not seen the footage until then, suspended Rice indefinitely.
Rice successfully appealed the suspension in late November and was reinstated by the league. But no team has signed him.
The NFL has been running its own anti-abuse ads under its “No More’’ campaign and will feature one during the Super Bowl as well.
But UltraViolet campaign director Adam Bink said fans need a reminder that the league hasn’t always backed up words with action.
“We’re doing it now, because over 100 million people will be watching the game,’’ Bink said, adding that more than 1 million will view his group’s ads. “They’ll be paying more attention, reading more coverage. The Super Bowl exists to showcase the best of the league, but we don’t want to paper over the worst of the league, which is its continued domestic violence problem under Roger Goodell.’’
The contrasts between those opposing views of the NFL were evident as billboard truck driver Como pulled to a stop at a red traffic light. Patrons seated outdoors at an Irish pub immediately craned their necks in his direction.
But it was soon clear they weren’t staring at his billboard. They were trying to look beyond it to see which former player was getting into an official NFL town car parked in the opposite direction on the other side of the street.
“Sometimes,’’ Como said, “you have to work a bit to get people to notice.’’
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.