The problem with being a female football fan

July 25, 2014

Baltimore Ravens Rice reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter in their NFL football game in Denver

It’s a weird time to be an avid NFL fan – particularly when you’re also a woman.

Beginning in September, I treat each Sunday as a holy day of chicken wings, beer and screaming at TVs. I play on an intramural football team. I own three Patriots jerseys (two, regrettably, bearing the name of a certain blue-eyed wide receiver who shall remain unnamed). I own the Patriots beanie, Patriots vintage tee, Patriots Christmas ornament and two Patriots beer koozies. I have funneled hundreds of dollars into the National Football League’s coffers.

When my fiancé and I recently went apartment hunting, we assessed each unit with our priorities clear: Where can we put the TV? Is the building wired for Verizon FiOS (NFL RedZone) or DirecTV (NFL Sunday Ticket)? Are there enough sports bars nearby?

But while Augusts past have been a time of feverish Fantasy Football drafting and handwringing hope for my beloved Pats’ upcoming season, my enthusiasm now wavers.

I am torn.

It’s because the National Football League’s true attitude toward women has never been quite so apparent as it is now.

The latest news, of course, is the punishment that the NFL doled out to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on camera, as the New York Times put it, driving “his hand into his then-fiancee’s head, knocking her cold” and then dragging her unconscious body from an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. He was charged with third-degree aggravated assault, pled not guilty, then participated in a pre-trial intervention program for first-time offenders in order to avoid going to jail.

The NFL yesterday announced that it would suspend Rice for two games.

Two games. That’s it.

To put this in perspective, players regularly face equal – if not longer – suspensions for offenses like pot possession. Bloomberg’s Kavitha A. Davidson spells it out:

In the NFL, the punishment rarely fits the crime. Leaving aside PED suspensions, the incongruity between a punishment of anywhere from four to 16 or more games for smoking pot and two games for physically assaulting someone is glaring. Marijuana is swiftly being decriminalized, if not legalized, while Rice was charged with third-degree assault.

And many have noted, this lopsided punishment is rampant. (CBS in particular has a great wrapup of abject outrage and Keith Olbermann handily outlined the league’s hypocrisy as well).

Particularly ironic (as one of those outraged Twitter-ers was quick to point out) is the case of Brandon Meriweather, who in 2013 was also suspended for two games for illegal hits… during a game. Against other players.

The message I take from this? In the NFL, “illegal hits” – be they bong or tackle – are as bad as domestic violence.

And the NFL’s problems go beyond domestic violence.

RTXTT4Y.jpgThe league has been dealing with tremendously bad press over its treatment of cheerleaders, with three separate squads suing the NFL over their compensation and treatment. (Anyone else remember the “jiggle test”?)

A frequently cited concession to the NFL’s female viewership is its annual nod to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout October players wear pink accessories (cleats, gloves and more) and the league trots out a collection of pink apparel that it sells, with proceeds going to support breast cancer charities. This is how the NFL shows it cares.

Too bad only a pittance goes to cancer research, according to an oft-cited figure from ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

But even if scientists got more of the money, it wouldn’t be enough to cancel out the clear message the NFL is sending with Rice’s paltry suspension.

With women making up roughly 44 percent of all football fans, you’d think the league would take issues like domestic violence more seriously – at least as seriously as getting a caught with a joint for a second time. But, apparently, that’s not the case.

TOP PHOTO: Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter in their NFL football game in Denver, Colorado September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

INSET PHOTO: Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders wearing pink in honor of breast cancer awareness month perform during a time out in the first half of their NFL football game between the Falcons and the Cincinnatti Bengals in Atlanta, Georgia October 24, 2010. REUTERS/Tami Chappell


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Well said, the punishment is an embarrassment.

Posted by olG3xolG | Report as abusive

Female co-dependents and enablers love this he-man gladiator spectacle called football, especially that of the National Felon League.

Posted by timebandit | Report as abusive

Some females need to see a shrink with all the emotional and psychopathic baggage they carry. Here is another article on how they are tread upon.

Posted by Margaretville | Report as abusive

Did you ever hear of “the sport of queens”?

Posted by msmaat | Report as abusive

I bet the author of this will still give the NFL her money again and again and again all the while complaining. Senseless.

Posted by dochi1958 | Report as abusive

Oh come on…

First of all assault (against any sex) is NOT a women’s issue, It’s an issue of any civil society as a whole.

Secondly, the NFL is NOT this civil society the state (hopefully) is. It is not up to any sports organisation to punish criminals and they don’t have to be just (maybe fair). Of course they care more about the attractiveness of the game (and therefore unsportsmanlike conduct) than about doling out justice.

Thirdly, if they WHERE supposed to exercise justice, he should not be punished at all: “was caught on camera[…]”, “He was charged[…]”, “pled not guilty, then participated in a pre-trial intervention program[…]” so anything BUT having been convicted. Remember this other little thing civil societies should always presume? Innocence until proven otherwise…

Posted by NELLAL | Report as abusive

Have to agree. His coach is calling what he did an unfortunate mistake. The definition of the word mistake is: An error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, insufficient knowledge or carelessness. Ragefully beating your wife unconscious in an elevator is a lot more than just some unfortunate mistake.

Posted by CF137 | Report as abusive