I used to beat people up. Truthfully, I used to beat people up a lot. Many of you readers probably think I have been Mr. Goody Two-Shoes my whole life, but honestly, I was a bully growing up. In elementary and middle school, I threw kids against the wall. I rubbed their heads in the dirt at recess. I bit them. I even knocked teeth out.
I had a lot of anger that I didn’t know what to do with. Thankfully, I was saved by my faith when I was 14 years old, and was able to start living for others instead of just myself. But if you’ve ever been at the bottom of a pile with me, you know that I still have a bit of that bully deep down inside—just ask DeMarcus Ware—and I work hard to keep it there.
As NFL players, we do not play a gentle game. But our hits, our anger, our aggressive behaviors need to be regulated and confined to the field. Recent incidents of domestic violence have forced The League, its fans and the players to take a hard look into our collective conscience. To be honest, many NFL players are reluctant to address such a sensitive issue. How do you fix a problem so big and complex? How do you speak about something so damaging and painful to families?
Domestic violence extends far beyond the spotlight of the NFL. It’s not unique to my profession. It’s not confined to America. All over the world, right at this moment, men, women and children are taking refuge in anonymous shelters. Many more are suffering silently, without protection. Every day, up to 10,000 Americans are turned away from shelters due to lack of resources.
What can we do to help? All I can do is my small part. And I invite you to help me. I’ve recently launched the “Why Not You Foundation” where I’ll be raising funds and awareness for a number of worthy causes. It’s a place where I plan to give back, and for my first initiative, I want us to Pass the Peace to support victims of domestic violence. The idea behind Pass the Peace is simple: It’s a promise. I’m sharing my love for you. I want to take care of you. I am here for you.
When you Pass the Peace to a friend, I ask that you make a $2 donation or more to The National Domestic Violence Hotline. It couldn’t be easier. Simply text WNYPassThePeace to 41444 to make your contribution. For more information, please visit www.whynotyoufoundation.com.
How many of you reading right now knew that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month? I certainly didn’t. I had to Google it. And that’s part of why I felt so inspired to do my part. This initiative, this story, is about acknowledging something difficult, something we’d rather not see. When I look back at beating kids up on the playground, I don’t like that image. But I moved past that place in my life, and I’m proud of the man I am now.
This issue is much bigger than NFL suspensions. Domestic violence isn’t going to disappear tomorrow or the next day. But the more that we choose not to talk about it, the more we shy away from the issue, the more we lose.
I can’t fix the world. I can’t fix the NFL. I can’t change the guys around me. The only person I can change is the one in the mirror. I’m not a perfect person by any means. I’m just a recovering bully. But if we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it. For those of us in the NFL, there’s no excuse for off the field.