As the NFL continues to deal with the fallout of its “meager” suspension of Ray Rice for a domestic violence arrest, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban said this week that his program will host a speaker to educate players on violence against women during preseason camp.
“That is definitely an area where we want to continue to educate the players,” Saban said this weekend, according to AL.com. “The importance of respect for other people, compassion for other people, and treating people the way you’d like to be treated yourself.”
Saban often brings in speakers to address players before the season and, according to AL.com, said that educating players about violence against women is part of a larger goal of teaching them about leadership and showing the “kind of respect we want our players to show other people.”
University of Texas head coach Charlie Strong recently took a strong stand on violence against women too, indefinitely suspending two players — wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander — who were arrested and charged with felony sexual assault.
“We’ve been monitoring and addressing the situation with Kendall [Sanders] and Montrel [Meander] since it was brought to our attention,” Strong said in a statement announcing the suspension. “It’s been made clear to everyone on our team that treating women with respect is one of our core values, and I’m extremely disappointed that two young men in our program have been accused of not doing that. With the recent charges against them, they have been suspended indefinitely from our football team and will no longer participate in any team functions.”
Strong came to Texas from Louisville, where his player code of conduct told players to “treat women with respect” and barred them from possessing guns (a major contributor to intimate partner violence).
Those core values might seem unnecessary to state, but as Jessica Luther wrote at Sports on Earth, Strong’s statement is “a bold one” because “this usually doesn’t happen” in football. This is a sport where the NFL has sent the message that domestic violence isn’t necessarily a problem. This is a sport in which school administrators, coaches, fans, and even law enforcement officials have looked the other way when players at places big and small, from Notre Dame to Florida State to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, have been accused of sexual assault or domestic violence. This is a sport in which issues like this are prevalent and problematic and too often unaddressed.
But Strong and Saban are now at least doing something to show that they take violence against women seriously, and that is important coming from two of college football’s most notable coaches at two of college football’s most prominent programs. That this qualifies as progress at all is perhaps a sad statement on how big a problem it is, and there will need to be more action, because a short speech about violence against women and dismissals of players charged with such crimes certainly isn’t enough to solve the problem. Strong, as Luther wrote, has to follow through on his discipline for players for his recent action to have any significance, and the same goes for Saban. But at least these two coaches are taking steps in the right direction, and maybe one day others, from the NFL down to the ranks of high school, will start to follow.