Should the NFL Listen to Jen Welter?

Jen WelterIt was a small article that will probably be ignored amid today’s news of Tom Brady getting exonerated, the final games of the football pre-season and baseball’s postseason just beginning to take shape. However, this small story is more important than all of them.

Josh Weinfuss, writing for ESPN (September 3, 2015): “Jen Welter: Female coaches could help solve domestic violence problem,” raised the idea put forth by the Arizona Cardinal’s former coaching intern Jen Welter. Her suggestion was to hire female coaches to reduce off the field violence.

In an interview with Katie Couric, Welter said:

“We put them up as role models so people are watching, and for good or for bad, there’s an opportunity to deal with this. I think if you saw the reaction that maybe my players had to having a female coach and loving it, maybe there’s a need for more of that. You have an opportunity to make them better men and not just better football players, and ultimately that is the goal.”

Though she holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, she was not there as the “team shrink.” She was coaching inside linebackers because of her experience as a football player.

It got us to thinking about her suggestion from an ethical point of view.

Who would be harmed?

The first distinction we need to agree upon is the classic ethical issue with football – or any other sport: on-the-field versus off-the-field.

We hear on almost a daily basis that football is an extremely violent sport. No one is arguing. Most of the time, no athlete gets into trouble for what happens on the field save for yellow laundry getting thrown by an official.

However, there are problems when a small percentage of men step off the violent fields. They carry behaviors with them that are not acceptable within the norms of society. The behaviors include domestic violence toward women and children.

Said Welter of domestic violence:

“They’re not just NFL problems. They’re societal problems.”

She is correct. However we would push her statement a bit.

There is little that is soft about football culture. It has been a classically testosterone-driven ethos from high school all the way into the professional ranks. The sport’s toughness demands a tolerance to physical and mental pain. Emotions are irrelevant.

Here is one of the problems. Women within the football culture have frequently been objectified or in some cases used as sexual rewards. Highly unethical collegiate programs have tacitly used women as recruiting bait or as favors. The practice, at some level, had been condoned. The programs can say what they will, but it was often a case of “boys will be boys.”

Those athletes who came from childhoods where women were not respected or were abused, only saw that behavior reinforced when the program culture enabled the objectification.

Some other young men who advanced in status amid notoriety and “fan adoration” allowed themselves to buy-in to their sudden fame as well. Despite hearing messages such as “No means no,” the athletes didn’t always “get” those messages. Some athletes, due to inflated senses of importance, disregarded what they heard and saw themselves as above the law and ethical behavior. They went after what or who (the objects) they saw in front of them.

All of this was carried up the many rungs of the ladder. If Jen Welter, as an authority figure, teacher and a woman can make a difference to those who may have forgotten what it is like to be a man (rather than just a male), why not let her?

Better men (and women)

We teach Sports Ethics. Jen Welter is a coach. Both influences come at players from different directions, but both help. Jen and other female coaches could influence by presence and skills. The players seemed to like her.

We teach about making good ethical choices.

Ultimately we all want the same thing. The game will be just as tough; off the field, it will just be more ethical.

For more information on Sports Ethics, LLC:

Chuck Gallagher

(828) 244-1400



Leave a Reply

Connect with Us

Phone: (828) 244-1400
Fax: (866) 426-4118
Chuck Gallagher
3620 Pelham Road #305
Greenville, SC 29615