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A Woman's Guide to Surviving the NFL

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The NFL has a large fan base of female followers, but are they doing enough to stop the injustice within their ranks in regards to their treatment of domestic violence?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In the city of Pittsburgh football is a type of religion. Every Sunday we go to our service in front of the TV and cheer for the team that feels like family. Fans feel like they are on a journey with their teams, bleeding with them and feeling their pain after a loss. The NFL knows this and has made billions upon billions of dollars off of our loyalty.

The problem is, the NFL could be threatening this sacred bond with fans by refusing to take action against those that hurt women. What is worse, they got away with this inaction for years and we only started taking notice when Ray Rice beat his fiance, now wife…on camera.

Disappointing would be putting it mildly. The NFL has one of the biggest stages to show support against domestic violence yet continue to drop the ball over and over again. As a person, this is disgusting, but as a female, this is unimaginable.

We all forgot about it. Rice was suspended for two games (which was later changed to indefinitely, but was dropped on an appeal) for his incident in that Atlantic City elevator, and the NFL did very little with it's platform in regards to domestic violence to show their support against it. Or so they claim they are against it. Who really knows.

The whole debate  was brought back to life with Le’Veon Bell, who received a three-game suspension for a DUI last August stemming from smoking marijuana before getting behind the wheel of a car. Fine. Bell broke the rules and got punished. That was his decision and he needs to live with the consequences. What enrages fans is that it warranted a more severe suspension than a man who beat his girlfriend. Why? Well, because until 2014 there was no concrete policy for domestic violence.

I am still scratching my head.

Since 2005 Ray McDonald, Chris Cook, Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams, Brandon Marshall, Santonio Holmes, Dez Bryant, Greg Hardy, Erik Walden, Donte Whitner, Randy Starks, and Frostee Rucker have all been arrested for domestic violence and all still play in the NFL.

In fact, the Steelers own James Harrison was involved in a domestic violence case in 2008, although the chargers were later dropped.

These cases vary. Some players took their punishment, some players appealed and won, and in some cases the charges were dropped. The only consistency is that the NFL had the chance to dictate how they viewed domestic violence in the league and missed the mark. Every time.

The NFL has been erratic in their punishment of domestic violence, to say the least, and it clearly is not for lack of situations. They try to brush is under the rug. Avoid it as best as they can, and they are spitting in the faces of all women in the process.

Women have a choice to make. Do we forgive the NFL’s past transgressions and move on with the faith that they have fixed the issue. More of a 'better late than never' attitude? Or do we discontinue supporting a league that did not support our safety?

The decision is a complicated one. The only fact that remains is that until we do something about it the NFL will keep hoping that we don’t notice. They will keep avoiding like they have for years. They will keep parading Alyssa Milano around showing off here 'Woman's NFL Gear' claiming they are cognizant and appealing to the female NFL fan. The truth is, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the largest female fan base among all 32 NFL teams. To say females reading this article could make a difference is an understatement.

But can we put the treatment of women above the loyalty to our favorite team? There lies the rub, a very tough decision. So what is a woman to do?

It’s not my place to tell you what to decide. I would just recommend you think carefully before you kick your feet up for some Sunday football. Remember this: everything is replaceable.