EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** The Giants on Monday were one of the first two NFL teams (Denver was the other) to participate in an educational session about domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
All of the team's players and coaches attended the seminar, which was led by Tony Porter, co-founder and co-director of A Call to Men, a leading national violence prevention organization providing training and education for men, boys and communities. Troy Vincent, a former player who is now the NFL' Executive Vice President of Football Operations, was also in attendance. Vincent's mother is a survivor of domestic violence.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has mandated that all NFL employees participate in presentations on how to identify and prevent domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
"In our sport, we've been challenged, because of the impact of sports in our culture, to take on a higher regard and a higher standard not just for your own life but also no longer being a bystander in light of these issues going on around us," said David Tyree, the former wide receiver who is now the Giants Director of Player Development. "I think there are very few people, if any, that don't know somebody directly who has been impacted by one of the three, sexual assault, domestic abuse or child abuse.
"We are raising the expectation and understanding that yes, everybody understands that you get paid to play a game, but we are now asked and expected to take on different roles in regard to our responsibility in our society today. I think it's something that the mass majority of our population is going to welcome and undertake and diligently do their part."
Last week in the NFL's Manhattan offices, Tyree joined player engagement and human resources officials from every team to preview the content in the presentations. They also offered suggestions regarding the information itself and how best to present it to the players.
The program led by Porter identified goals, defined domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, and detailed how it affects victims. It emphasized "we all have a responsibility" to end those three scourges of society and how to achieve that goal.
The Giants began putting their best foot forward prior to the program. Eli Manning, Prince Amukamara and Mark Herzlich were among nearly two dozen current and former NFL players appearing in a series of public service announcements denouncing domestic violence and sexual assault.
Celebrities, athletes, corporate sponsors and others donated resources for the spots, which premiered last week.
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"It was a good meeting," Herzlich said. "It stressed the fact that we have responsibilities as men, not only to treat women correctly and our children correctly, but also to hold other men accountable. The call to action is to educate the youth, because young boys look up to the older generation as a way of saying, 'Okay, this is the way relationships should go.' If we teach them early what the appropriate way is to treat a relationship, then it'll become just a part of their nature and they'll cut out all the language that is abusive to women, they'll cut out the physical abuse and, hopefully, we make a positive change to that part of our society and culture."
"They taught us about domestic violence, educated us about sexual assault and then educated us about child abuse," Amukamara said. "They educated us about all three situations and told us that there is help out there if any of us are dealing with it or know someone who is dealing with it. They told us to not let it linger. If we hear a teammate who is talking about it, hold them accountable."
"I definitely think it was a good (program) in light of all the things that have happened," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "(With) everything that has been brought to the public eye, I think it is good that the league is taking the initiative. We, as a league, want to be at the forefront of opening up the floor for discussion. It is something that we needed to hear."
The players agreed that they have a unique and powerful platform to not only help educate millions of people about the ills of domestic violence, but also to help prevent it.
"I agree 100 percent," Kiwanuka said. "I always thought as professional athletes or any type of public figure or entertainer [that] there is a lot of attention being paid to you, and whenever you get the chance to use it for a positive cause, that is what we are here to do. We are also here to use our influence to effect some change. I think it was a point that was brought up a couple of times during the seminar, and I think a lot of people took that to heart and we'll start to see more people get involved."
"(We should) always be aware," Amukamara said, "and always know that what we do not only will have an impact on us but an impact on our families, the people we know and the people that look up to us."
"As football players, we're looked up to just because of what our profession is and what we do," Herzlich said. "It's great. It's more so than singers or movie stars, because we have this sort of persona as athletes, especially as football players, as role models. Whether you like it or not, you're a role model. So you can use that platform to send messages and 99 percent of the guys in the NFL do that and do that well. We want to continue that."
Tyree will maintain the dialogue and education and encourage the players to do just that.
"My takeaway was that there are two ways that you can live," Tyree said. "You could think about what you have to lose and there's a truth in regard to every decision that we make. But the way that I look at it is I have much more to gain in regard to my role and responsibility and the impact that I could make through being willing to be a responsible citizen or servant in my community, my club and begin to impact and change lives for the better. Many players do that already. And I think now it's just doing it in more of an intentional way."
"I can always do better," Kiwanuka said. "We can always do better. I wouldn't have closed the door anyway, but I think now that there is a lot of attention and focus being paid to these issues, we will get more requests to do some things in the community in terms of child abuse and all forms of abuse. I will definitely keep my eyes open."
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