Representatives of the Black Women’s Roundtable said a meeting with NFL executives on Wednesday was productive, and just the start of a conversation. The roundtable had requested a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league announced a domestic violence advisory panel that included no women of color.
“We agreed to have a meeting with commissioner Goodell in the next 30 to 45 days,” Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, told She the People.
Campbell said the roundtable would continue to work with the NFL as a resource. “That’s the way we left it,” she said just after the meeting ended. “We asked a lot of questions, and we did a lot of listening,” Campbell said. “Some things we feel we’ll deal with when we meet with the commissioner.”
At the two-hour meeting at NFL headquarters in New York, Campbell said the NFL was represented by five executives, led by Anna Isaacson and Troy Vincent. Isaacson, who had been the league’s vice president for community relations and philanthropy, was named vice president of social responsibility following controversy over the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. Vincent is executive vice president of football operations. The former NFL defensive back has served as vice president of player engagement and has spoken in the past of growing up seeing his mother a victim of domestic abuse.
“We talked through issues of diversity within the NFL, the culture, the grand opportunity they have to try to address a major societal issue,” said Campbell. She said among the roundtable members who attended were leading experts in their fields, including Karma Cottman, executive director of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Dr. Elsie Scott, the founding director of Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University, who has a criminal justice background as former executive director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and deputy commissioner of training for the New York City police department. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) gave a public policy perspective on the issue, Campbell said.
“We talked about training, cultural competence how to engage the faith community; we shared our petition [5,000 signatures] to give them some idea of what the community is saying.”
Though football is still popular with viewers, many of these same fans have questions about how the league has handled issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse and will deal with them going forward. The Sept. 16 letter from the Black Women’s Roundtable to Goodell questioned the lack of diversity on its advisory panel, especially, it said, since black women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence and sexual assault, according to the roundtable’s 2014 report, and because more than 66 percent of the NFL players are made up of African Americans.
The Rev. Marcia Dyson, CEO and founder of the Women’s Global Initiative, signed the letter and attended Wednesday’s meeting. “We came as women who want be healers for a hurting community for a national crisis called domestic violence and sexual abuse,” Dyson said in an interview.
“We refuse to let our men be the poster boys for something that is systemic, not only in American culture but around the world, and that is acute violence toward women,” she said. “We don’t hate the player. We don’t hate the game. We don’t hate the community. That’s not what we came for.”
Dyson said the NFL leadership can play a great role in changing the course of domestic violence through its program and initiatives. “They can be the champions because of the things that are needed around education and character building, the ways in which they advertise.” She said she is looking forward to the Black Women’s Roundtable meeting with Goodell. “It can be a learning moment for him as well as the NFL and the greater society.”