As football fans, we always knew that domestic violence existed in the NFL, but had never actually seen it until video was released in September of ex-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City, N.J., casino elevator.
But what you still can’t see in the video is the years of abuse that may have happened to other NFL wives that were never reported.
A Washington Post feature released Friday tells the harrowing tales of a few former NFL wives who say they suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their husbands. The piece, written by Simone Sebastian and Ines Bebea, details how these women were afraid to tell their stories — not only because they were frightened about what their husbands would do, but because they felt pressure from the league, and even police, to keep quiet.
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“You get brainwashed,” an anonymous ex-wife of a New Orleans Saints player said. “It’s so ingrained that you protect the player, you just stay quiet. You learn your role is to be the supportive NFL wife. You’d cost him his job.”
The wives and ex-wives said that they’d reach out to the NFL Players’ Association but would never hear back. And when police were involved, they often felt pressure to not press charges. Dewan Smith-Williams, who is still married to former offensive lineman Wally Williams but lives apart from him, said that the police would even talk football with her husband when they were called to their house.
But Smith-Williams said she was far from the only one with stories like this.
“I had friends who had black eyes. They said they ran into cupboards,” Smith-Williams told the Post. “There were women who said their husbands ran them over like they were on a football field. 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.”
And while the whole feature is worth a read from any NFL fan, there’s one thing in particular that Smith-Williams said that stands out.
“You will hear of a wife murdered before you hear another one come forward.”