NFL Wives Say League Culture Compelled Silence On Domestic Violence

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Whenever Dewan Smith-Williams sees Janay Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s wife, on television, she feels like she's looking into a mirror, say the Washington Post. Smith-Williams, 44, remembers the denial, the secrecy, the sense of isolation, the shame. Most of all, she remembers the fear of ruining her husband's career as a National Football League player, the feeling that coming forth, or seeking justice, would destroy her four children's financial security. She understands that struggle not only because she, too, was a domestic-violence victim, but because she watched many other NFL wives, many of them her friends, go through the same nightmare. For each of them, it began with their husbands' attacks and worsened with a culture that, they felt, compelled silence.

“We've told agents about it, called the NFL Players Association when things were really, really bad,” Smith-Williams recalls. “They would say, 'Oh, we're really sorry that you are going through this. We'll look into it.' But you never heard back. There's no one available for the wives.” She and another former NFL wife describe an insular and intensely secretive organization, where loyalty extends only in one direction – everyone protects the NFL brand, but the NFL protects its own interests over everything else. Teri Patterson of the NFL Players Association says her organization beefed up its communication with wives after she arrived in 2009.

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