In the midst of rising public relations concerns about the personal conduct of their athletes and the way in which they and their teams have handled their cases, the National Football League has recently announced that they have hired four women to serve as advisors to the league on issues of social relevance.
For example, in a letter to the teams, commissioner Roger Goodell wrote of the expanded role in store for Anna Isaacson, who was already Vice President of Community Affairs and Philanthropy.
She has now been given the additional title of Vice President of Social Responsibility, which frankly sounds like something they just made up.
The league has also retained the services of three additional female senior advisors “to help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault”, in what may literally be the most tasteless instance of the phrase “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” of all time.
According to Goodell, Lisa Friel, former head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit for the New York County District Attorney’s office, “will be on the evaluation process of incidents of alleged domestic violence and sexual assault”.
Jane Randel and Rita Smith, meanwhile, have been tasked with developing and implementing a new workplace policy on domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA); furthering employee education on such issues; proliferating training programs to the players, coaches, executives, and staff of all teams; identifying and managing DV/SA resources; and educating employees and their families about relevant resources outside the parameters of the league.
In other words, the league is throwing a bunch of women at the issue of the league’s treatment and view of women in general and hoping it all goes away, but it won’t.
Perhaps the influence of these women will ultimately make things better in terms of how the league handles cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, but employing a gaggle of women to act as supervisors will not be a public relations quick fix.
If anything, it may achieve the opposite effect, as it did for former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney when he uttered the phrase “binders full of women” in reference to the research he’d claimed to do in his efforts to add women to his office staff as governor.
Like the reactionary change of heart upon the backlash over Ray Rice’s initial discipline, which prompted Goodell and the league to establish harsher penalties for employees involved in domestic violence cases, this may prove to be the right thing to do, even if many will rightfully be skeptical about the sincerity of the motives behind the decision.