By Rebecca Bryan
Los Angeles (AFP) — Another NFL team benched a player Wednesday over suspicion of domestic violence, deepening the woes of America’s richest and most popular sports league.
With the football season just two weeks old and the National Football League and some teams under attack from fans and sponsors, the suspect this time is Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer.
Dwyer was arrested Wednesday over two separate incidents allegedly involving a 27-year-old woman and 18-month-old child on consecutive days in July at a Phoenix residence.
Dwyer was booked into a Phoenix county jail and charged with one count of aggravated assault causing a fracture, one count of aggravated assault involving a minor, two counts of criminal damage, one count of preventing the use of a phone in an emergency, and assault, police said.
The Cardinals wasted no time in benching the player.
“Given the serious nature of the allegations we have taken the immediate step to deactivate Jonathan from all team activities,” the team said in a statement later Wednesday.
A police statement said Dwyer has admitted some kind of incidents happened, but denied any physical assaults took place.
In the past the NFL has suffered a long series of high-profile problems — over player injuries from the rough, head-bashing sport; debate of drug testing; and even charges of racism. Yet those have failed to dent the league’s popularity.
But charges of violence by players against women and children — and a clumsy response by the league and individual teams — have both sponsors and fans on edge.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has come in for particular criticism over his handling of Ray Rice, the running back who helped the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title after the 2012 season.
Goodell initially banned Rice for two games over a February incident in a casino elevator in which Rice knocked his then-fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious with a brutal punch to the face.
After a video of the actual punch was posted online this month, Rice was promptly cut by the Ravens and banned from the league indefinitely by Goodell — a punishment the player’s union is appealing.
The case is made murkier by a report that Goodell or others in the league office knew of the video before issuing the two-game ban, which was derided as grossly insufficient by domestic violence advocates.
– Boss must go?-
The Rice case sparked a “#Goodellmustgo” campaign on social media. But the commissioner who has presided over continued growth of the NFL’s formidable fortunes continues to enjoy the support of team owners.
After the Rice case broke, others have come in swift succession.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is charged with child abuse for administering a whipping to his young son. He denies the punishment amounts to child abuse.
Carolina Panthers star defensive end Greg Hardy is appealing a conviction for assaulting a former girlfriend.
Hardy played the first game of the season for the Panthers after launching an appeal of his conviction. The Vikings had planned to welcome Peterson back to action after he missed one game, which the team lost badly.
But amid a growing public uproar, both teams negotiated deals with their players to place them on paid leave as their legal cases proceed.
David Carter, a principal of the Sports Business Group and executive director of the University of Southern California’s Marshall Sports Business Institute, said the league will have to prove to sponsors, as well as fans, that they can address such issues more effectively.
“They routinely also want to conduct business with organizations that reflect their values, as well as the values of their shareholders and customers,” he said.
“If sponsors believe that the NFL will ultimately and satisfactorily address this crisis they will remain behind the league. However, if they view the NFL to have a chronic problem, they may redirect their spending.”
AFP Photo/Christian Petersen
Interested in sports news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!