Protective Mothers' Alliance International

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Posts Tagged ‘Football

The NFL’s Mindless Misogyny: Why Was Ray Rice Given a Slap on the Wrist for Beating His Fiancée? / The Daily Beast

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Please note; since this article was written Ray Rice’s suspension has been vacated due to his winning an appeal see link below:

https://protectivemothersallianceinternational.org/2014/12/02/ray-rice-wins-appeal-suspension-vacated-immediately-huff-post-sports/

The below article was originally posted on The Daily Beast
Written by Robert Silverman

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/25/the-nfl-s-mindless-misogyny-why-was-ray-rice-given-a-slap-on-the-wrist-for-beating-his-fianc-e.html

Professional football players can be suspended up to a year for marijuana, yet the Baltimore Ravens’ star running back was given a measly two-game suspension for brutally assaulting his bride-to-be in a video that’s gone viral.
This is a thing that happened. A man in peak physical condition, possessing strength that would put the average person to shame, was caught on video dragging his unconscious, much smaller fiancée (now wife) by the hair out of an elevator at a casino in Atlantic City.

What occurred prior has not been made public, but according to witnesses that spoke to Deadspin, the alleged assailant threw an “uppercut,” while another said he struck her “like he [would punch] a guy.”
Watch it here
*****Caution May Trigger*****

The gentleman in question is Ray Rice, star running back for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. Today, it was announced that as “punishment,” he will be suspended for the first two games of the regular season, and levied an additional fine of $58,000 in addition to a prorated loss of salary.

If you think two Sundays of sitting at home seems like a fairly light slap on the wrist for what by all accounts was a brutal assault, you’d be absolutely right, especially in light of the punishments that the NFL has meted out for other transgressions—namely those that concern performance enhancing drugs and/or controlled substances.

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns is looking at a year on the sidelines for marijuana and alcohol use. Granted, he’s a repeat offender with what appears to be an actual substance abuse issue, but Ace Sanders, the Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver, just got four games for a second violation.

Daryl Washington got sent home for a season, but not because he got busted for two counts of aggravated assault of his girlfriend, for which he received a year’s probation.

And the list goes on and on. Via Aaron Gordon of Sports on Earth, here’s a list of the 27 players that have been suspended since 2006. According to the NFL’s math, a helmet-to-helmet hit that occurred during a game is the equivalent of Rice’s vicious attack.

That’s bad enough, but take a look at what the Ravens’ head coach, Jim Harbaugh, said upon hearing of the suspension.

“It’s just part of the process. We always said from the beginning that the circumstances would determine the consequences,” Harbaugh said. “There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray, he’s a heck of a guy, he’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake, he’s gonna have to pay a consequence.

“I think that’s good for kids to understand it works that way, that’s how it works, that’s how it should be. We’ll move forward, and the next guy will have to step up and Ray will be back when the time comes. It’s not something that we’re dwelling on, we’re not worrying about it, we’re just moving forward.”

That’s right, parents. Make sure you remind your kids that Ray’s a heck of a guy and this two-game suspension is a fair and just punishment. Tell your boys that they can beat the tar out of a girl, and as long as they can average more than 4 yards a carry, they can pretty much get away with it.

And you girls out there, if you get smacked around by your man, make sure you explain how it’s partially your fault during an absolutely awful, team-sponsored press conference. Now, would you gals be interested in purchasing this glittery pink Ray Rice jersey as a show of support?

Why would the NFL render such a patently awful decision, one that states that personal drug use is a more heinous offense than beating the daylights out of a woman?

Well, for starters, there are some very powerful, wealthy forces that are engaged in a continuation of the status quo when it comes to prohibition laws, even for non-physically addictive substances like marijuana. The drug-testing industrial complex is a $1.4 billion-a-year industry that is deeply invested in seeing that contractual agreements among employers and employees supersede legalization efforts.

Here you can read the lovely story of a telemarketer in Colorado that got canned after failing a test, even though he had a legitimate medical reason and a prescription.

The organizations trying to bring attention to the insidious proliferation of domestic violence, however, don’t have nearly as much clout or lobbying dollars, but the numbers alone are horrifying.

From the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

· One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

· An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

· 85% of domestic violence victims are women.

· Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew.

· Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.

· Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: This is not about pro athletes in the NFL or any other sport. The NBA is just as bad. Take a look at Aaron McGuire’s column and read the disturbing rap sheet. If you’re tempted to howl that this proves that they’re all “thugs” or “criminals,” please stop now.

America has a problem with domestic violence. The NFL has a problem with how seriously it takes violence against women because there’s zero economic incentive for them to do so. Fans might walk away if they think they’re “all on the dope” but for the most part, they really don’t care what athletes do off the field, as long as they’re not prohibited from playing and helping Team X win.

Take a look at what SportsCenter tweeted after the news came to light.

Ray Rice has been one of the most productive RBs in the NFL in the last 5 seasons.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 24, 2014
On their broadcast this morning, Adam Schefter wondered if the “punishment” was “lenient enough” before the rest of the crew turned the conversation to how the Ravens’ offense will function versus the Steelers and Bengals without their lead ballcarrier.

And the NFL Network described the suspension as Rice “dealing with the iron fist of the NFL,” before quickly pivoting to a conversation about the Thursday night schedule, which (shocker) will be broadcast on the NFL Network.

That may seem callous at best and providing ample cover for Rice and the league as a whole at worst, but they’re just giving their viewers what they want. And yes, I’m including myself in this group. I root for the New York Knicks. They employ an individual that not only has a serious drug problem; he was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. I have not stopped rooting for the Knicks in general or this player in particular, so I’m just as guilty of this hypocrisy as anyone else.

At The Nation, Dave Zirin wrote today that, “When its ‘breast cancer awareness month’ begins, people should take these jerseys and light a big old bonfire outside of NFL stadiums. They are symbols of a monstrous joke that sees women as either revenue streams, cheerleaders or collateral damage to what takes place on the field.”

He’s right, and I’d like to see a day when a demonstration like he describes might occur. But for now, it won’t. And until it does, we’ll be outraged at the next non-punishment for the next Ray Rice, and then the next, and then the next.

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Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

December 2, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Ray Rice Wins Appeal, Suspension Vacated Immediately / Huff Post Sports

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NEW YORK (AP) — Ray Rice has won the appeal of his indefinite suspension by the NFL.

An arbitrator ruled Friday that his suspension for punching his fiancee, now his wife, should be vacated immediately. The NFL said Rice, a free agent, is “eligible to play upon signing a new contract.”

Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones said Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision in September to change Rice’s original suspension from two games to indefinite was “arbitrary” and an “abuse of discretion.”

Jones was deciding whether the NFL overstepped its authority in modifying Rice’s two-game suspension after video of the Baltimore Ravens running back punching Janay became public.

Rice was released by the Ravens when the video went public. Rice and the union contended he was essentially sentenced twice, and Jones agreed.

She noted in her decision that after Goodell increased the punishment for a first offense under the personal conduct policy from two to six games, “the commissioner called Rice to assure him that the new policy would not affect him — that it was forward-looking and his penalty would not be increased.”

In her decision, Jones also wrote:

“Because Rice did not mislead the commissioner and because there were no new facts on which the commissioner could base his increased suspension, I find that the imposition of the indefinite suspension was arbitrary. I therefore vacate the second penalty imposed on Rice.

“The provisions of the first discipline — those regarding making continued use of counseling and other professional services, having no further involvement with law enforcement, and not committing any additional violations of league policies — still stand.”

The NFL said it accepted the decision.

“We respect Judge Jones’s decision to reinstate Ray Rice from his indefinite suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy in an incident of domestic violence,” spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email to The Associated Press.

“Ray Rice is a free agent and has been eligible to be signed by an NFL team since he was released by the Ravens. Based on Judge Jones’ decision, he will be eligible to play upon signing a new contract.”

Goodell and the Rices testified at the hearing, as did NFL security chief Jeffrey Miller and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. During his appearance, Goodell told Jones: “I do accept that I have to be consistent with consistent circumstances, and … I think that’s about fairness, and fairness would be, you should be as consistent as possible in your discipline.”

The NFL Players Association claimed a “victory for a disciplinary process that is fair and transparent” in a statement. The union called again for collective bargaining to produce a new personal conduct policy.

Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

December 2, 2014 at 7:59 am

For battered NFL wives, a message from the cops and the league: Keep quiet / The Washington Post-By Simone Sebastian and Ines Bebea

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Whenever Dewan Smith-Williams sees Janay Rice on television, she feels like she’s looking into a mirror. Smith-Williams, 44, remembers the denial, the secrecy, the sense of isolation, the shame. But most of all, she remembers the fear of ruining her husband’s career as a National Football League player — the feeling that coming forth, or seeking justice, would destroy her four children’s financial security. She understands that struggle not only because she, too, was a domestic-violence victim, but because she watched so many other NFL wives, many of them her friends, go through the same nightmare. For each of them, it began with their husbands’ attacks and worsened with a culture that, they felt, compelled silence.

“We’ve told agents about it, called the NFL Players Association when things were really, really bad,” Smith-Williams recalls. “They would say, ‘Oh, we’re really sorry that you are going through this. We’ll look into it.’ But you never heard back. There’s no one available for the wives.”

She and another former NFL wife describe an insular and intensely secretive organization, where loyalty extends only in one direction – everyone protects the NFL brand, but the NFL protects its own interests over everything else. The culture is passed down more by example than diktat. Wives new to the league watch older ones suffer from abuse in silence, and they mimic the behavior. Often, wives and girlfriends confide in each other, but when they do, their advice is to stay quiet, say the two women, one of whom declined to let her name be printed because her ex-husband is still associated with the league.

It’s counterintuitive to the outside world: Women should leave their abusers, and their abusers should be punished. But the NFL is a unique universe with an overwhelmingly male workforce whose members are lionized in the press and in their communities; a we’re-all-in-this-together ethos; and incentives for the managers, coaches, and union reps to keep negative stories under wraps. Going to authorities, whether police or hospitals, means social exclusion and, more importantly, negative media attention that could end your husband’s career. Justice imperils their belonging and their livelihood.

The wives, whose husbands ended their playing careers in the 2000s, say they knew of no safe alternative — no liaison to players’ families, no counselor, and no procedure for reporting abuse. In fact, the league rarely communicates with wives at all, on issues serious or benign, even though a great number of them don’t work and are dependent on their husbands, they say. The NFL did not answer several requests for comment about league culture or how officials interact with players’ wives. Teri Patterson, deputy managing director and special counsel to the NFL Players Association, says her organization beefed up its communication with wives after she arrived in 2009. The NFLPA now holds meetings for players and their wives in 10 cities each year, plus up to five others at special events like the Super Bowl. (There are 32 teams in the league, meaning only one-third of them have access to the sessions each year.)

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, just one-quarter of the 1.3 million American women assaulted by an intimate partner each year report the attacks to the police. But the two wives interviewed for this article claimed the rate of reporting among NFL wives and girlfriends is much lower. They say the league has built a tight-knit culture, similar to a fraternity, with entrenched hierarchies and a fierce sense of loyalty among members. “You get brainwashed. It’s so ingrained that you protect the player, you just stay quiet. You learn your role is to be the supportive NFL wife,” says one of them, the onetime wife of a Saints player who asked to speak anonymously because her now ex-husband is still associated with the league. Otherwise, she says, “You’d cost him his job.”

For that reason, few of them have felt comfortable telling their stories in the press. But the example of Janay Rice moved two of them to describe what they had gone through and what they had seen — namely, the way they thought the NFL, the NFLPA, and local law enforcement abandoned them after their husbands’ abuse. Since they began telling The Washington Post their stories, they also spoke with other NFL wives who went through similar situations but didn’t want to come forward, they say. These accounts help explain why.

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During the decade when her husband, offensive lineman Wally Williams, played in the league, Smith-Williams says that the overwhelming majority of the NFL wives she talked to quietly suffered from some kind of spousal abuse. One showed up on her porch barefoot and crying one night. Others came to indoor team events in sunglasses. Other times, they opened up to her and other wives in the league about their experiences with domestic abuse. But as in any tight-knit organization, players’ family lives rarely stayed private, she says. Coaches and general managers didn’t need to be told directly to know which players were having trouble at home.

Yet they habitually overlooked the league’s systemic domestic abuse problem, she says, an experience in line with the story former Chicago Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo described to USA Today last week, when he told a reporter that teams failed to punish players in “hundreds and hundreds” of domestic-violence episodes during his three-decade-long career. Later, he took back his comments after others in the league criticized him. (USA Today has not retracted the story.)

In rare cases when women did muster the courage to notify law enforcement, police officers appeared to tolerate players’ bad behavior. “When the cops would come, they just said we needed some time apart, and they would talk to [Wally] about football,” Smith-Williams recalls. “The police tell you, ‘You don’t want this in the news.’ I have things that happened in my life that there is no record of.”

Wally Williams denied the domestic-abuse allegations in this story and declined to comment on any specific claims.

Smith-Williams, who now lives separately from her husband but is still married to him, says she was pushed, grabbed and held by the throat early in her tumultuous 16-year marriage to Williams. During that time, the NFL was a constant presence in their lives, and she received clear messages from the head coach not to air the league’s dirty laundry — even to the cops.

In 2001, two years before Williams retired from the sport, police responded to an alarm at their empty New Orleans-area home and found marijuana on a table. Head Coach Jim Haslett, who lived in the neighborhood, heard about the incident and left a note at their home warning them to call him before talking to anyone else. Haslett, the most important authority figure in their lives, later met them at their home and told them to keep quiet, Smith-Williams says. She says she originally offered to take the fall and tell authorities the marijuana was hers, to protect Wally’s public image and career. Haslett told her it wouldn’t work. “He said, ‘They don’t want you. They want him,’” she recalls. “He said, ‘Don’t talk to the media. Don’t talk to the police. We will handle it.” It was a message that would stay with her.

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Soon after, an attorney for the league contacted the couple to tell them Wally would be arrested. Smith-Williams says she doesn’t know what happened behind the scenes after he posted bail, but ultimately, her husband was never charged. The NFL put him under supervision and assigned him a liaison to help him stay out of trouble.

The Saints declined to comment on the incident, and Haslett, who is now defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, did not return calls or e-mails for comment.

The next year, during his final season, Williams tested positive for marijuana use and received a four-game suspension. So when Smith-Williams found marijuana in their Baltimore home, she confronted her husband about it. He stormed through their Baltimore house with a baseball bat, hitting doors, chairs and pictures while threatening her, she says. But after Coach Haslett’s warning the previous year, she chose not to call the cops. Instead, she rang the NFLPA rep assigned to Williams’s case. He told her to stay safe and to let Williams leave the house. He said that someone would call her back. That call never came. Smith-Williams wasn’t entirely surprised — the league rarely returned calls from her or other wives, they had told her. So she didn’t bother calling again.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says the league has no record of the event. The NFLPA declined to comment, but Patterson, who now counsels NFL families on its behalf, says the players association is “definitely hyper-responsive” to wives’ inquiries.

In another incident that year, in their New Orleans-area home, Smith-Williams says her husband threw a cellphone at her, hit her on the arm with a newspaper, then pushed and held her against the wall and started choking her. This time, she called the cops and filed a police report that describes much of the episode; a copy was obtained by The Washington Post. But she was ultimately afraid to press charges. “I didn’t want the father of my children in jail,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I didn’t want him to lose his job. Bottom line.”

“HE SAID, ‘DON’T TALK TO THE MEDIA. DON’T TALK TO THE POLICE. WE WILL HANDLE IT.”

Even after players have left the field, their dependent wives have an incentive to protect their husbands’ careers. Wally Williams had retired in 2003 to work as a CBS analyst and moved out of the Maryland home he shared with Smith-Williams. But in January 2005, he returned to pick up a laptop and some other property that, she says, didn’t belong to him. “I called the police and he snatched the phone from me. I called from other phones, and he would do the same. There was a glass door and he pushed me through it.” The police eventually called back, and Smith-Williams was taken to a Maryland emergency room, where, according to hospital records obtained by The Washington Post, she was treated for multiple cuts and bruises. Police came to the hospital and took a statement, but again she chose not to press charges.

Smith-Williams says she has talked about this phenomenon with dozens of football wives and girlfriends over the years, all of whom echo her feeling of powerlessness when law-enforcement, NFL, and NFLPA officials all failed to intervene against signs of domestic-abuse. The women, she says, eventually come to believe there’s nothing they can do fix the problem, so they focus on living with it. “I had friends who had black eyes. They said they ran into cupboards. There were women who said their husbands ran them over like they were on a football field,” Smith-Williams recalls. “There are many other families’ experiences that have already been minimized, ignored, or overlooked by the law and by the NFL because of the protection of the NFL brand.”

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Among them was the then-wife of another New Orleans Saints player — the one who asked not to be named because her now ex-husband is still associated with the league. She recalls that one night, when several players were at a bar celebrating their first win of the season during the 1990s, her husband became enraged at her request to go home early. He grabbed her arm roughly and dragged her to their SUV while a teammate convinced two police officers who’d been patrolling nearby not to intervene.

The abuse intensified once they got home, where her husband dragged her into their apartment by her hair and then beat her, she says.

He pushed me to the top of the stairs and shoved me over to the bed. When I stood up, he punched me, and the next thing I remember is coming to on the floor. I remember pulling my legs up to the fetal position to protect myself from his kick after kick. I was vomiting and gasping for air and remember screaming, ‘You are going to kill me!’

Her black eyes lasted for four weeks, she says.

Neighbors who saw the altercation begin outside their home had called the police. But when they arrived, instead of arresting her husband, the officers chatted and laughed with him about his successful game, she says. One requested an autograph for his kid. When her husband cleaned the blood from her face and ushered her downstairs to assure the police officers all was well in the home, they overlooked any evidence of abuse, she says, and as far as she knows they never filed a police report.

The next afternoon, a woman from the Saints main office called her for the first time ever. It wasn’t until she became a potential threat, the wife remembers thinking, that the team had reached out to her. Yet the rep didn’t mention the manhandling at the bar, the intervention from the police or even the abuse, which led the wife to think they just wanted to know whether she intended to involve the police or the press.

[The rep] said she called to ‘check on me.’ … I knew what the call meant. I think every wife knows innately what that call means: ‘Your husband needs this job, and you don’t want to take his dream away now do you?’ I lost more than my dignity. I lost my voice, my self-confidence, my identity. I was just a football player’s wife, collateral damage.

She says her then-husband avoided a hospital visit (and a potentially public embarrassment) the next day by cleaning up her bloodied eyes and face with supplies purchased at the drug store. He personally took her to her job to make sure she told her coworkers she had been in a car accident, which explained the bruises. She didn’t follow up with the police or press charges.

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“I learned to listen and not speak,” she says. “He would remind me of that night, how no one would care if I was gone and how the cops did [not care]. It was all about him. He reminded me that I was alone and disposable.”

Neither the Saints nor the NFL responded to requests for comment about her story

In family-style cultures that promote loyalty above other concerns, victims are often disinclined to seek safety, says Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “There are a lot of barriers for women when they are trying to leave an abusive relationship,” she says. “The NFL has given us many factors as to why there are barriers: financial, shame, cultural barriers.”

Smith-Williams says that description fits her story, because she had become highly dependent on her NFL husband. She left her hometown of Akron, Ohio, her family and her social circle to move around the country as he played for different teams. She gave up her nursing job to support his career and take care of their growing family. ​For her, like many wives, the NFL became her life and her livelihood, and her husband was the link to that. If he left, she had nothing.

The elevator surveillance video showing Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée Janay Rice in Atlantic City emboldened these women to come forward, they say, because it revealed widespread but rarely-discussed problem. “If you hadn’t seen the video, you would never believe that this happens,” Smith-Williams says. “There is never any accountability” for men taught to attack on the field and enforce their wills on others. “Some of these men are not equipped mentally or emotionally to turn off the aggression switch.” Since separating from her husband, Smith-Williams has gotten a master’s degree and now works as a nurse practitioner in Garfield Heights, Ohio.

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The NFLPA says it works with clinicians on various health needs of the players and their families, but there are no programs focused on domestic abuse. Smith-Williams thinks the league should mandate psychological help for players who exhibit warning signs and counseling for abused spouses and children. Token suspensions and resignations do nothing to solve the problem and may even worsen it, because players who are abusive, including their own husbands in the past, use the threat of punishment to keep their partners quiet, the wives say.

If the league is serious about ending domestic violence in its ranks, it must rehabilitate instead of punish, they say. Penalties should be less draconian, so wives don’t worry about ending their husbands’ careers or threatening their families’ livelihoods. “They use [the NFL’s current policies] as leverage against you,” says the ex-wife of the Saints player. “There’s abuse on every team. Everybody knows, but you know not to tell.” Ultimately, she says, the case against Ray Rice has made the NFL less safe for women:

“You will hear of a wife murdered before you hear another one come forward.”

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Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

October 18, 2014 at 5:49 am

The Ray Rice Story Explodes on Twitter

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On Monday, TMZ aired surveillance film from an elevator in an Atlantic City casino that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice beating his then-fiance and now current wife Janay Rice. The brutal assault was captured on film–Rice punched Janay, knocking her out, then dragged her unconscious body out of the elevator.

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Despite the vicious attack, Janay married Rice. And now, a media firestorm has begun, questioning Janay’s decision to marry Rice and stay in the relationship.

Janay used Instagram to explain why she stayed in the relationship and how public exposure of this incident has hurt her family: http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/2014/09/janay_rice_releases_statement.html

Then the hashtag #whyistayed was started by Beverly Gooden, writer, who was touched by the footage of the beating, “For over a year, I was physically abused by my ex-husband. When TMZ released the video of Ray Rice punching, dragging, and spitting on his wife [Monday] morning, the internet exploded with questions about her. Why didn’t she leave? Why did she marry him? Why did she stay? I can’t speak for Janay Rice, but I can speak for Beverly Gooden. Why did I stay? ”

And “I believe in storytelling. I believe in the power of shared experience. I believe that we find strength in community. That is why I created this hashtag.”

#whyIstayed is used by victims of domestic violence to explain what it was like for them to live in an abusive relationship — that it was not easy for them to leave their abuser. Many of the comments reflect that these women feared for their lives, they were dominated and control. PMA International has also heard many stories of women who stayed because they feared their ex would harm or take custody (or kidnap) their children if they left.

To hear more of these heart breaking stories, please visit our Unstoppable Mothers Project and our Love Letters to Our Children Project ( links below)

Unstoppable Mothers;

https://protectivemothersallianceinternational.org/2014/01/18/unstoppable-mothers/

UNSTOPPABLEmoms

Love Letters To Our Children;
https://protectivemothersallianceinternational.org/2013/11/20/love-letters-to-our-children-2/

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Another hastag #whyIleft describes the fight for survival, and why the abuse victim left or got help to leave. The two hashtags are trending on Twitter.

The Ravens have since cut Rice from the team, and he is suspended indefinetly from the NFL. Rice says he loves his wife, and that they are in “good spirits” and “support each other”. Janay says she loves her husband, and ” ‘I want people to respect our privacy in this family matter.’

http://www.cleveland.com/interact/2014/09/cleveland-born_author_starts_w.html

http://www.vox.com/2014/9/8/6124703/whyistayed-and-whyileft-hashtags-are-the-most-powerful-things-youll-read?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=vox&utm_content=article-share-top

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Michael Strahan on How His Father Shaped His Life—And the Lessons His Kids Are Teaching Him

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http://parade.condenast.com/303101/shawnamalcom/michael-strahan-on-how-his-father-shaped-his-life/

Don’t look now, but Michael Strahan’s most famous feature is about to get a little alteration. While the 6-foot-5 star poses for a few solo shots during Parade’s photo shoot, his 9-year-old daughter Sophia can’t resist poking fun at her father’s gap-toothed smile. As the images appear on a monitor, she holds her finger up to the screen and mischievously covers the empty space. “That’s better,” she says with a giggle.

Not to Strahan fans. The former NFL star now wakes up millions with his trademark grin and big-kid playfulness in his roles as cohost of Live With Kelly and Michael and special cohost of Good Morning America. And it’s clear that his kids have inherited their dad’s goofy side, which is sure to be front and center on July 17 when he hosts Nickelodeon’s inaugural Kids’ Choice Sports awards. On this sunny Saturday in L.A., Sophia and her fraternal twin sister, Isabella, Strahan’s daughters with ex-wife Jean Muggli, break out the dance moves by the pool and later team up with their 19-year-old half-brother Michael Jr., a psychology major at University of Texas at San Antonio, to tease Strahan, 42, about being a not-so-strict dad. “There are rules!” protests Strahan, who’s engaged to Hollywood Exes star Nicole Murphy. “You have to make your beds.” (Unfortunately, Tanita, 22—she and Michael Jr. are Strahan’s children from his first marriage, to Wanda Hutchins—couldn’t weigh in; a new job in Houston prevented her from taking part in this father-and-kids-reunion.)

 

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With Kelly Ripa on their hit syndicated show, “Live With Kelly and Michael” (David E. Steele/Disney ABC)

It’s also clear that the children possess a competitive streak like their dad, who spent much of his youth in Germany—where his father, an army major, was stationed—before his remarkable 15-year career as a defensive end for the New York Giants. (Strahan retired in 2008 after winning a hard-fought Super Bowl title; now an analyst for Fox NFL ­Sunday, he’ll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.) Ask Michael Jr. for a favorite memory of his pop and he offers: “I was 11 and the Wii had just come out. We were playing tennis, and I beat him!”

Isabella heads for a nearby ­basketball hoop and ­proposes a ­wager: If she makes five baskets in a row, Dad pays up. ­Strahan, clearly believing his money is safe, agrees—then ­watches, stunned and proud, as she sinks every single shot.

PARADE: It looks like you’re out some cash.
Michael Strahan: Apparently she’s been practicing! I’ve seen her play—I’ve seen both of [the girls] play on their teams and they’re good—but there’s no way I thought she’d make five shots in a row! Now Sophia’s gonna want to make a deal where she makes five in a row.

Courtesy of Michael Strahan

In 2013 with Michael Jr., Tanita, and their half-brother Dorian, 13, whom Strahan says is “like my son, too.” (Courtesy of Michael Strahan)

It must be nice to have so many of the kids here today. How often does everybody get together?
It’s rare, especially as Michael and Tanita get older. But the thing I love is [that] when there’s an opportunity, they’re all for it. Tanita just got a new job, so unfortunately she couldn’t take the time off to come. But it’s never, “I want to hang out with my friends and go to the movies.” My parents included us in everything, and I try to do the same with my kids.

Your son told me he’s not really interested in football. Does that surprise you?
Not really. It was never my thing to say, “I played, so you gotta,” because I felt it put more pressure on him than he needed. He played [for two years] in high school and was a good player, but when I saw he wasn’t having fun, I was like, “You don’t have to do it. I played enough for all of us. But you’ve got to find something you enjoy and do your best at it.” Everybody’s got a different path.

Have you worried about how your success might affect your kids?
When you’re visible, you do wonder how your kids will handle it. But they don’t play off that. With college kids, it’s usually, “I need this, I need that,” but with Tanita and Michael, I’m the one who’s like, “Do you need anything?” They’re the lowest-maintenance kids. They want to make their own way, which I love. When Tanita graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, I said, “I got some job interviews set up for you in New York. I’m pretty sure if you go in there and present yourself well, you’ll get a job.” And she said, “You know what, Dad? I’m not ready for New York.” I know it took a lot for her to tell me that. At first I was like, “Are you crazy?” But if she felt she needed to start in a smaller market and work her way up on her own, then great.

Courtesy of Michael Strahan

With his father, Gene, in 2007 (Courtesy of Michael Strahan)

What’s your relationship like with your dad, Gene?
Amazing. My father is the most influential person in my career in [terms of] attitude—the understanding that nobody gives you anything in life, you have to earn it. My dad wanted to be an army officer, and to do that he needed to go to college. He had five kids and I was on the way, but he took a chance on himself. He graduated magna cum laude at 30-some years old and [became] an officer. So you can’t tell him what you “can’t” do. His whole thing was, “I don’t want to hear about the problem, I want to see the solution.” There’s always a solution.

Do you look at your work that way?
I love solving problems. It makes me happy to juggle all the jobs I do—figuring out which team is supposed to win on Fox NFL Sunday; reacting off the cuff to Kelly [Ripa, on Live]; and now GMA, trying to fit into that group. The great thing coming from sports is you understand the concept of a team. It leaves no room for being selfish, and that’s something I picked up from home.

Your dad sent you at age 17 from Germany to Houston to stay with your uncle Art, a former NFL ­player, giving you the opportunity to play high school football for the first time and possibly get a college scholarship. In hindsight, it was a brilliant move, but how did you feel about it at the time?
I was scared to death. Did I necessarily want to do it? No. Was I in a totally different environment with no friends? Yes. Was that hard because I was shy? Absolutely. But I thought, “He knows what he’s talking about. He’s my dad.” So I sucked it up. And when I did play in college, I was on a mission: I’m going to be the best at it. Everything I do professionally, I have that mentality about.

How did his parenting influence how you raise your own kids?
My dad was always about when you’re going to do something, not if. I believe in my kids 100 percent. When you have confidence in them, they have confidence in themselves.

Paul Spinelli/AP Images

At the 2008 Super Bowl (Paul Spinelli/AP Images)

When you were contemplating retiring from the NFL, did you discuss it with your dad?
Without knowing it, my dad helped me. I wrote a book [in 2007], Inside the Helmet, with one of my best friends, Jay Glazer. There’s a part where we talk about the toll the NFL takes on your body. Your back, hips, knees, shoulders, and neck don’t work like they used to, but you have to figure out a way around it. After we won the Super Bowl in 2008, I debated, do I play another year? I was talking to my dad, not even really about that, and he brought up that he’d read the book. And it was like at the end of the movie Babe, where the guy tells Babe, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.” My dad was like, “There’s no need to do that anymore.” When he said that, I didn’t have to prove anymore that I could do what he sent me to do all those years ago. That’s when I realized I was done. I see guys cry when they retire, but I was smiling because I’d left everything I could out there and I’d made the people close to me proud.

You’re an inspiration to a new generation of players, including Michael Sam, who recently became the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL. Have you talked to him since?
Yeah, I texted him congratulations. I feel bad for him in the sense that he has a lot of pressure and people looking for him to represent something. Right now, he just needs to represent himself and his family and be the best player he can be. Plain and simple. He’s a football player first and foremost.

Was this a big step for the NFL?
Well, it’s a big step as far as people just being who they are. There have been gay players since the NFL started—not open in the public sense, but open in the locker room. Now you’ve got players who say the locker room’s going to be uncomfortable and blah blah blah; I tweeted one back the other day saying, “You and I both know we’ve played with gay guys before, they just weren’t out. Let this kid live.”

It’s one thing for a former pro athlete to get into sports broadcasting, but it’s unusual to become a morning show star. Why do you think you were able to cross over so successfully?

Because I don’t think about failing. If I look back now, I go, “You could’ve been the guy who killed the show ­Regis built!” But at the time I just looked at it like, “This is what I want to do.” And if people see you genuinely having fun and being yourself, especially on a morning show, they connect to it. I’m not perfect; I’ve never professed to be and I don’t want to be. How much fun is that? I’m the guy who looked at [NFL] players and said, “I can do that.” And I’m sure there’s some kid out there looking at me, going, “Man, he’s got the gap in his teeth, he talks with a lisp, and he’s probably spitting over the entire crowd. But if he can do it, I can.”

 

Peggy Sirota for Parade; Wardrobe styling, Victoria Trilling; Hair, Hee Soo Kwon for The Rex Agency using Bumble & Bumble; Makeup, Lisa Ashley from Lisa Ashley Beauty (Michael and Michael, Jr.); Jeannia Robinette for Tracey Mattingly (Isabella and Sophia); Strahan: Jeans, Five Four; Shoes, Creative Recreation

(Peggy Sirota for Parade; Wardrobe styling, Victoria Trilling; Hair, Hee Soo Kwon for The Rex Agency using Bumble & Bumble; Makeup, Lisa Ashley from Lisa Ashley Beauty (Michael and Michael, Jr.); Jeannia Robinette for Tracey Mattingly (Isabella and Sophia); Strahan: Jeans, Five Four; Shoes, Creative Recreation)

 

What do you enjoy most about being a dad?
I love being the person my kids depend on to learn. Everything they learn for the most part comes from you—how they treat people, how they look at the world, how they process things. I love being that example for them, just like my parents were for me.

What drives you now?
I don’t do it for fame. If you’re doing anything for fame, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I do what I do because I love entertaining. I love being good at something. And I love making my family proud. If you have enjoyment for what you do and a sincere purpose behind it, you can do it forever.

 

 

Posted by Greg Sanders PMA INTL Man UP For Moms

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