Rev. Jesse Jackson decried the National Football League’s lack of diversity on Tuesday when it appointed three experts – all white – to help shape its policies on domestic violence following the release of a video in which star running back Ray Rice is seen knocking his then-fiancee unconscious.
About two-thirds of the league’s players are black, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. NFL director of player engagement and education Deana Garner, who helps lead the league's domestic violence programs, is black.
“Where is the jury of your peers?" Jackson said. The civil rights leader called the lack of diversity among the senior advisers a "shameful insensitivity" that "compounds the credibility crisis."
In a memo to the league's 32 teams, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league had retained Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith as senior advisers to "shape the NFL's policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault."
Lisa Friel was the head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney's Office for more than a decade. Jane Randel is the co-founder of No More, a campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault. And Smith is the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Goodell has been heavily criticized for his handling of the domestic abuse case involving Rice. The player was initially suspended for two games. Goodell at first defended the punishment, but more than a month later he told owners he "didn't get it right" and that first-time domestic violence offenders would in future face a six-game suspension.
Rice subsequently was released by the Baltimore Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the league after a video surfaced of the assault on Janay Rice.
Nearly one-third of black women are victims of domestic violence and experience abuse at a higher rate, 35 percent, than white women, according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. They also are less likely to seek social support, join battered women programs or visit the hospital.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press