Prof. Kiana Cox joined the Sociology and Criminal Justice faculty this year, and we’re thrilled to have her as a member of the Women’s Studies faculty as well. She identifies her research interests as gender, intersectionality, black feminism, race/ethnicity, African American politics and social movements, and popular culture, and if you check out her blog or her Facebook feed, you’ll notice she’s a sports fan too. She’s given us permission to repost a piece she first published on the Feminist Wire, available here, and she writes of this blog post:
“Over the past month, the NFL has been embroiled in tremendous public criticism of their handling of the high profile domestic violence and child abuse cases of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, and Ray McDonald. In this blog post, written when the first video of Rice dragging his then-fiancee Janay Palmer was released publicly, I explore the apparent contradiction between the NFL’s conspicuous support of women’s health in the form of breast cancer advocacy and their patent silence on the danger that many of their players pose to the women and children in their lives. As an avid sports fan, I implored the NFL to recognize that its female fans need more than pink cleats.”
Her original essay is included here:
Every October the NFL, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, adorns itself in pink to raise awareness about and funds for breast cancer. Via their NFL Pink website, the league encourages women to make a “crucial catch” and to know that “annual screening saves lives.” Amidst these messages are videos and stories of women who are currently enmeshed in the fight against the disease. The implicit message here is that the NFL recognizes its female fan-base and appears to be dedicated to a cause that might impact a significant number of their lives. Despite recent criticism that the NFL profits from their Pink campaign, the visual spectacle resulting from the NFL’s use of pink cleats, towels, and goal posts is impressive.
And yet these efforts do nothing to assuage my increasing disgust with the league and the androcentricity that governs U.S. professional sports in general. Several recent issues involving current and former NFL players have left me watching sports television less and less. And this is quite a feat, because I have loved sports my whole life. From watching every game played by Jordan’s Bulls from 1991-1998, to the White Sox’s World Series win in 2005, the Blackhawks current reign as NHL champions, and the newly revamped Bears offense- I know my sports, I love my sports, and I love my Chicago teams. But the thing that is driving my growing contempt is their refusal to deal with issues of violence, masculinity-as-violence, misogyny, hyper-sexualization of women, rape culture, and countless others issues, which are part of a culture that consistently puts women in danger. Their steadfast support or patent silence on situations where current and former players have molested, abused, raped, and even killed women is alarming. Continue reading