NOVI, Mich. – The NFL has faced a lot of scrutiny over its handling of domestic violence issues in the past year.
From Ray Rice to Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald and even former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Rodney Austin, it has come up consistently as an issue. And on Wednesday, the Lions tried to make an effort to help educate teenagers about the causes of the issue.
The Lions donated $250,000 to HAVEN’s Redefine program. HAVEN, a shelter and program for domestic abuse victims, has long been a partner with the Lions, and this program is geared at educating high school students about the root causes of domestic violence.
“It’s important,” Lions team president Tom Lewand said. “For us, we’re always looking to try and be a leader in the community in different ways. Obviously with the focus on domestic violence throughout the NFL, it’s important for us to look at that issue but to look at it in what we hope is an innovative way.
“This program, to try and get in front of the kids early, the peer-to-peer sharing component of it, makes it unique and different. If we’re going to really change the dialogue on this and change the paradigm, we have to change the way we talk about it and it starts with that.”
The program will be active in Oakland and Wayne counties in Michigan.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell has said that he has a zero tolerance policy for domestic violence issues and the franchise showed that earlier this year, cutting Austin days after his arrest on domestic violence charges. He was later found guilty in a North Carolina courtroom and is serving probation now.
Lewand said the franchise educates players about domestic violence from the day they join the organization. He said the organization preaches respect for other humans and beyond just talking about these issues, they also run specific programs geared to issues the players may face.
When asked if the Lions would automatically not consider a player if he has a past history with domestic violence, Lewand would not talk in absolutes. The Lions have shown in recent history to have little to nomtolerance for those issues.
“Today is the day to talk about preventing that from ever becoming an issue and ways that we can positively impact the community,” Lewand said. “The platform that we have. I think you’ve seen how we’ve dealt with things recently but what you haven’t seen is how we deal with the dialogue we like to have inside our organization, whether that’s training, whether that’s informal discussions, the most important thing we can do is not be afraid to talk about it.
“Not be afraid to espouse and promote the virtue of respect.”