NFL Domestic Abuse Scandal Is a Wake-Up Call and May Finally Bring Change

“This situation is horrible, it needs to be addressed and cannot happen again,” crisis management expert Michael Bilello tells TheWrap

Last Updated: September 18, 2014 @ 2:36 PM

The bad news just keeps rolling in during what sports insiders are calling the “NFL’s worst week (now month) ever,” but there may be a light at the end of this troubling domestic abuse-plagued tunnel.

First there was the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice domestic violence scandal. Then Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson and Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy were put on their team’s exempt lists as of Wednesday, and most recently Arizona Cardinals’ Jonathan Dwyer was arrested for domestic violence. But the NFL and the teams involved “will prevail, they will learn from this,” crisis management expert and CEO Centurion Michael Bilello told TheWrap.

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“The league and teams have taken a reactionary stance but they are organizations that have existed for many years and will continue to beyond [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell and the current players because they are bigger than the sum of their problems.

“There have been many lessons learned here on what not to do but this is just one chapter in the very long story of the NFL,” Bilello said, adding that there have been many past embarrassments for the football league such as the New Orleans Saints Bountygate, Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring and the 2012 referee lockout.

“This is a wake-up call and I like to think that positive change will come from it in the future.”

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Moving forward, “it no longer matters what the league does or what the teams do, it’s going to be all about action,” he explained. “This situation is horrible, it needs to be addressed and cannot happen again.”

During the height of the Rice firestorm last week there was a rallying cry for the firing or resignation of Goodell, however Bilello doesn’t believe the commissioner’s career is necessarily doomed.

“In the age of 24-hour news and social media, today’s hero is always tomorrow’s villain and vice versa,” said the former U.S. Marine Corps media relations officer. But before rushing to judgment, “everyone needs to go to a quiet place, think and make rational decisions.”

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As TheWrap previously reported, NFL sponsor Anheuser-Busch released a scathing statement on Tuesday, saying: “We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season,” referring to the leaked video showing Ray Rice knocking out then-fiancee Janay Palmer, and the more recent child abuse charges against the Vikings star RB, Peterson.

Nike has since suspended its sponsorship deal with Peterson over the alleged abuse of his four-year-old son, PepsiCo condemned the domestic violence scandal Wednesday calling it “repugnant,” and the Radisson hotel chain has backed away from its involvement with the Minnesota team in the wake of the scandal. “Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children,” the company said in a statement.

“No organization can operate without their sponsors,” explained Bilello, as corporations “can only be associated with positive moves, so they have to seem decisive and make a statement of not tolerating this.”

Also read: NFL’s Best and Worst Week Ever: Here’s 9 Things You May Have Missed During Ray Rice Scandal

The league was harshly criticized for the light punishment it initially handed down to Rice and the Vikings were slammed for announcing that Peterson would be active against the Saints on Sunday (a move that has since been reversed) but Bilello explained that while we were waiting for them to make a decision, “there were certainly meetings held behind the scenes to make sure the proper process was followed.

“The organization has to respect due process and the criminal investigation — every player has a lot of representatives, if you don’t respect that, you can cause greater harm than good, Bilello said. “The NFL has to hold people accountable for their actions but at the end of the day, the show will go on,” he concluded.