National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill has proclaimed that Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable must lose his job because he apparently hit his first wife and may have done the same to a past girlfriend. As this article tells us, O’Neill asks why anyone who has allegedly committed DV in the past should be permitted to coach in the NFL (Washington Post, 11/6/09). What the connection is between Cable’s past misdeeds regarding his partners and his fitness to coach a professional football team remains unclear.
But from I can gather of what O’Neill said, there doesn’t need to be a connection. Recently NOW also demanded that New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate be removed from his elected position because he pulled his unwilling girlfriend through a hallway. That claim of course had profound implications for the democratic process that the demand for Cable’s ouster does not. Before his conviction on the misdemeanor charge, NOW had declared the entire New York State Senate to be a “hostile work environment,” presumably because of Monserrate’s presence there. The notion that the voters of Monserrate’s district should be the ones to decide whether he remains in office is simply ignored by NOW. NOW of NY has decided he is unfit to represent his district and that seems to be all there is to it.
And so it is with the Oakland football team, which is of course a private entity. That fact tells us where NOW is going with this. As far as I can tell, the commission of any act of domestic violence will move NOW to demand the discharge from employment of any male person. To date they haven’t demanded that any woman be fired for DV, so until they do, I’ll assume they’re confining their outrage to the actions of men.
But consider the implications of O’Neill’s demand that Cable be fired. According to her, it is a condition of employment - presumably at any job – that a man never has committed an act of domestic violence in the past. Mail carriers, plumbers, lawyers, doctors, all must be vetted according to (and presumably by) NOW. Never mind that no law requires any such thing. Never mind that Cable is protected by a collective bargaining agreement, which again requires no such thing. In other words, I suspect that Al Davis couldn’t fire Cable for his past marital actions even if he wanted to.
In fact, I’m giving NOW the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been assuming that they’re only basing their demand on what Cable’s admitted to doing. The simple fact though, is that they’re also tossing in allegations of DV as grounds for firing. That’s why O’Neill says that women “do not make such accusations lightly.” Her meaning is that, even though they’re only accusations, they must be true.
Interestingly enough, O’Neill’s words are contradicted by a significant amount of police research. At least one study, referred to here, shows that as many as 80% of all DV complaints received by police involve no serious physical violence at all (AZ Central, 8/28/09). Another study by the Morrison Institute of Arizona State University found that at most 37% of their sample of DV complaints that actually resulted in a criminal charge involved any form of physical violence, no matter how slight. In fact, because most of those charges were for “assault” and because the definition of that charge includes the mere threat of the use of force or violence, the actual number is less than 37%, but the report doesn’t explain just how much less.
The above is not to suggest that men or women in volatile domestic situations can’t have a genuine fear for their safety even without actual violence occurring. Of course they can. I only mention those studies because the popular conception of DV, actively promoted by O’Neill and NOW, is of “battering.” Indeed, as the article shows, they tend to use the terms interchangeably, which gives the false impression that every woman who claims to be a victim of DV has been battered, and every man who’s been arrested for DV is a batterer. Their elision of the difference is by no means accidental.
So let’s be clear. The verb “to batter” means, in its non-legal definition, actual, and repeated violence using heavy blows which cause physical harm. It is, in short the type of domestic violence the state has a genuine interest in punishing and trying to stop. Domestic violence, even when the allegations are real, is a far, far broader term. The vast majority of DV reports to police involve no physical violence or injury at all.
Back to Cable, though. I can easily see him getting fired. The Raiders look like a far worse team than they ought to be, given the players they put on the field. Of course the lynchpin of any team, the quarterback, is no prize either. Whoever is at fault, their performance on the field is subpar. That’s the type of thing that can get you fired.