Anyone who has watched an NFL game this season has seen a "Football is Family" ad extolling the ways that pro football and pro football fandom can help bring people together, solve problems, provide comfort, and generally improve well being in the way that only family can. Anyone following the NFL on Twitter has seen the photos of players from opposite teams embracing, players visiting fans in the hospital, players rescuing kittens from trees, and on and on. Clearly, Football is Family, and these giants of the gridiron are the helpful big brothers we all wish we had.
But try telling that to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, who today launched an abuse investigation into the San Diego Chargers following the discovery of “credible indicators” during the team’s December 6 loss to the Denver Broncos. “During that game,” gripes Goldman, “both wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and cornerback Brandon Flowers suffered serious injuries — Inman left the field on a stretcher. Any family that sent not one but two kids to the hospital on the same day for serious injuries incurred during what they called 'good, hard play’ would merit investigation. But there’s more: we’ve managed to collect video of the events in question, and it’s clear that once Inman and Flowers were off the field, the family continued right on with its game as if nothing had happened! And further, a huge crowd was in attendance, cheering after every bone-rattling burst of activity! What kind of family encourages its children to do engage in violent collisions for the amusement of onlookers? An abusive family, that’s what kind.”
"Of course,” continued Goldsmith, "this kind of physical abuse usually has an emotional component as well. Kids have to be conditioned to remain in this kind of situation. Sometimes, there are monetary ‘bonuses’ offered to make up for the suffering, or promises of comfort when the painful ordeal is over. Sometimes, there’s emotional manipulation: if the child is praised for his or her toughness, he or she is less likely to report the problem. The abuse becomes a kind of badge. Sometimes, there’s the simple threat of being cut off from the community. It’s hard enough for an athlete to be cut from a team. Imagine how it feels to be kicked out of a family.”
“Finally,” said Goldsmith, “there is research out there suggesting that families that abuse their children are also likely abuse their elders. It would be terrible to discover that the same authority figures who brought so much pain to these players as young people were also responsible for neglecting and/or ostracizing them once they get older and retire. But however terrible, we’ve got to look into it. The people of San Diego count on us not to turn a blind eye on these things.”