Late Wednesday morning, attorney and feminist Gloria Allred announced her plans to reveal “two individuals” who would speak about acts of violence allegedly committed by an National Football League player. A few hours later, she appeared at a press conference in Atlanta with Kristeena Spivey and Clarence Watley to announce that Chicago Bear Brandon Marshall was the NFL player in question.
Spivey alleged that Marshall had a long history of abusing her friend and former roommate Rasheedah Watley when she was his girlfriend.
On June 8, 2007, Spivey said she became a “direct victim” of Marshall. According to Spivey, she and Watley were driving a car when Marshall rammed them off the road and threw a cement block at their window. Marshall has previously denied ever harming Rasheedah Watley but, as the Chicago Tribune notes, he has a “pile-up of domestic incidents that almost derailed his career.”
Allred claims that Spivey notified NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of Marshall’s abuse but that Goodell did not follow through with an investigation. Noting that Goodell previously suspended Michael Vick for dogfighting, Spivey asked: “Does that mean that women’s lives, safety, and worth are less than those of dogs?” Allred concurred, noting that Goodell’s alleged lack of response to the incidents reveals “men are considered to be of more value to the NFL than women and children.”
These new allegations against Brandon Marshall come hot on the heels of Ray Rice’s termination from the Baltimore Ravens and subsequent suspension from the NFL after new security footage revealed that he had punched his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an elevator. Goodell had initially suspended Rice for just two games when he was spotted dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator—a decision that sparked a public outcry from fans, feminists, sports commentators, and the public—but he opted for an indefinite suspension once this new footage came to light. Even still, the NFL Players Association is appealing Ray Rice’s suspension from the league, asking for a “fair and impartial process” and accusing Goodell of being unable to serve as an “impartial arbitrator.”
Rice’s suspension marks the latest in a long string of violent incidents involving NFL players. As Newsday reports, 10 NFL players have been arrested on domestic violence charges in the past two years alone. In response to these incidents, Commissioner Goodell has already instituted a new system of punishments for domestic violence for the NFL as part of the Personal Conduct Policy. Under this new system, players who commit “assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault” will be suspended without pay for six games after their first offense and banished from the NFL after a second offense. More severe penalties will be doled out for incidents “involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.”
Allred said she believes this policy is still an insufficient response to acts of domestic violence allegedly committed by NFL players. In her press conference, Allred proposed that the NFL adopt a new process modeled after Title IX hearings that colleges and universities use to investigate sexual assault on campus. Allred’s proposed hearings would take place even if there were no criminal charge made—or even if there was and the NFL player were acquitted. Allred sent a letter to Goodell asking that the NFL institute this new process. “Unless they do,” she says, “victims of violence by NFL players will continue to be treated as second-class citizens.”
“We look forward to the NFL’s response,” Allred concluded, surely ready not to hold her breath waiting.