Bigger than Football: Corporate Social Responsibility, Domestic Violence and the National Football League




Simpson, Jayne M.

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This work is a thematic analysis of the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as it relates to the National Football League (NFL), namely in their efforts to address issues of domestic violence. In examining the cases of NFL players Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Josh Brown – all who were accused of and arrested for being violent with their wives and/or girlfriends through taking data from the official NFL site as well as news media, themes surrounding the NFL’s intentions and actions on the topic of domestic violence can be drawn.

Each case is structured into a timeline of events on the part of the players, the league, and public opinion. In comparing the stance the NFL takes publicly on the issue of domestic violence in their 2016 social responsibility report to the actual courses of action taken in these three and several other cases, a contradiction between the promise and delivery can be drawn. Themes of inconsistency, leniency, transition of blame, and lack of remorse can be seen on the part of the NFL. These themes are met by another theme from stakeholders, including NFL employees, retired and active players, and fans at large – disappointment.

The purpose of this study was not only to add to the body of work available in both CSR and organizational communication, but also to call attention to the topic of domestic violence within organizations like the NFL.


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Branding, Corporate Social Responsibility, Domestic Violence, Football, NFL, Sport