By: Joe “Cartright” Cardoso
A few weeks ago I decided that I had seen and heard enough about domestic violence and sports. I had to say something. Rather than writing an opinion piece that would provide my solo perspective, I reached out to several females in my life, including both females in my family, and other females whom I know who either work in sports and/or are dedicated sports fans. I incorporated much of the information I gathered into my article. After my piece was published there was a lot of awesome feedback, beyond anything I had ever expected. The feedback led to conversations, which turned out to be really interesting, and I learned a lot.
Among those to provide interesting feedback, was someone I know because of Twitter. She uses the handle @SportSXMichelle, and I came to know her soon after I first launched NBS back in January. She was one of the first people I ran into on social media. Based on her tweets, I could tell she was a sports fan but besides being a fan, her tweets revealed something more. Not only did she seem to have a unique perspective on sports in general, but she also seemed to speak out in a very strong manner the about various social issues that were plaguing the sports industry. After I shared my article with her, she had a somewhat strong reaction, which was not only different from the rest, but nothing I had anticipated. At the risk of having it sound as though she was ‘all about she’ because that was not really how I took it, she was hurt that I had not asked for her opinion on the topic before I had published my piece. She shared some tweets, and expressed in direct messages, that although she appreciated my article, she was also saddened that I had not asked for her opinion. The reason, she shared, was because she has dedicated her life to combatting the issue of misuse of power. I felt terrible, because it was not as though I had not read her work, and I did know that she was truly focused on this issue, yet I had not realized just how focused. In what seems to be a pattern for most men, I missed the boat and details on that. So I was really happy when she agreed to talk with me about the issue of domestic violence and how it ties into sports.
Michelle Sport ‘X’ [not her real name, but she’s employed as a teacher/and also tutors in Drug Court in the county where she lives, so she prefers a pseudonym] is the founder of a nonprofit organization that was formed to educate about misuse of power. She holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University, which she earned in 2009. She has also completed her core course work toward a doctorate of philosophy in public policy administration with a specialization in law. Her work can be found all over the Internet, as she is involved with multiple websites, magazines, and radio shows.
So how did Michelle end up writing about sports? Well, it all happened when she was working to help share awareness about a former NFL player whom had been diagnosed with ALS. She asked the host of a sport talk radio program that broadcasts live out of Las Vegas, Nevada, if she could share about the charity on air. The show’s host told her she was welcome to take over their social media, mainly Twitter account, to share about the charity fund-raiser. From that point on, Michelle has been tweeting about sports, ever since. She ended up becoming a regular part of the show, and her sports blog can be found on their website. She was on Twitter interacting with fans nightly, and eventually Yahoo Sports Radio picked up that show. Her experience on Twitter with the guests and hosts of the program gave her a “SportsX Boot Camp,” and there she found her passion for the games we all love.
Michelle’s work on Twitter, would eventually lead to her forming her own social media consulting firm, SXM Social Media, which would ultimately lead to her working with several key folks within the sports industry. She has consulted several national sports talk personalities on how to set up, and run their Twitter accounts, as well as, several professional athletes, television personalities. She has also become very involved with her own radio programs, and is working to create a fantasy sports site. Although Michelle has put her doctorate on hold for now, partly because of residual affects from Hurricane Sandy, as well as, her being unable to juggle the research and manage her own business, she’s never forgotten about her passion to help others, and affect change in public policy. This is why she was so passionate with her feedback after reading my article.
During the time I got to interview Michelle, I found our conversation to be fun. We hit a ton of topics including her life’s work of helping victims and educating the abusers as well as others. Michelle has worked in several roles within the county court system where she resides, in the role of mediator, counselor, tutor, and greeter. She has studied violent behavior, and is especially passionate about domestic violence within the NFL. She believes that brain trauma might be an overlooked variable when it comes to the multitude of cases in the NFL, and she has even written to the commissioner directly, and enclosed a copy of her diploma, and a certification she received from Gavin de Becker & Associates, which shows she has completed, Advanced Threat Assessment & Management, at one of the most prestigious private security firms in the country. It’s not that Michelle thinks that football should fade away though, in fact, one of the best quotes from my interview with her was “Football is dangerous, but so is life”.
When asked if the NFL is doing enough to combat domestic violence, Michelle shared that although she does think that Roger Goodell is serious about making positive changes, she does not think the NFL is doing enough. She gave a powerful example, which she personally experienced because she happens to be a Cowboys fan. That example included reference to how because she’s a Cowboys fan; she was a recipient of an email shared by the team encouraging her to buy a Greg Hardy jersey immediately after the Cowboys signed him. As a female she found it disgusting that a man who had gone through the issues he went through and was still suspended, with his fate up in the air due to his horrible actions, was being promoted. I, for one, love her idea that a player who is found to be guilty of bad behavior should have his jersey and merchandise sales go to charity and NOT the league or team. Another interesting point Michelle shared had to do with the NFL and the teams making money off of the crimes. She mentioned that it is against public policy to profit from crime, but yet the league is constantly reporting on its own negativity. It’s probably a necessary evil, but it’s still ridiculousness. How can the league’s website have links to help victims and raise awareness, and also have a banner sharing breaking news announcing that a player attacks girlfriend and questions whether or not he will play, in somewhat ‘breaking news’ fashion, that seems to be generating ratings?
When asked about whether or not Ray Rice should be able to have a ‘second chance’ and play in the NFL again, Michelle said that she would have signed him, before she signed Greg Hardy. Michelle would put Ray Rice to her team today! Why, you ask? Because, in her opinion, he has gone through the system, which required that he take a good look into the mirror at himself. He’s turning his life around, and making a commitment to grow from the experience. Michelle has strong opinions about rehabilitation and suggests that if we are not going to allow people who have made mistakes, to re-enter the field of work they know, after they have gone through the programs our tax dollars fund, then why have the programs in the first place? I love her statement, “A second chance does not mean you are saying what they did is ok.”
Although she and I both know this next idea would probably never come to be because it would not generate ratings or sell tickets, Michelle would like to see a change of focus when it comes to sports in general. She would like to see more focus on an individual’s character, as opposed, to his performance. We focus so much on winning and on field issues so much, but what are these athletes doing off the field with their fame to help others? This sort of information only seems to make the back page, and there’s far more focus on how fast someone can run a 40-yard dash, as opposed to the community service, or charitable work athletes have done. As with most issues in society, Michelle wants more education for people in sports so they can learn the warning signs and also how to get help if they have crossed that line. The questions she posed about whether brain injuries are an overlooked variable in domestic violence, is one she continually returned to, throughout our conversation. Those hits add up over time. Do they make players snap more quickly or react differently in certain situations? Are the pain meds they take a variable as well? These are fantastic question that I never considered. I walked away from our conversation with a better understanding of the issue and how we can help improve it. I also see how in this age of social media it’s harder to ONLY worry about what a player does on the field when their personal life is on display 24/7.
Michelle is a great writer and someone who will continue to educate and offer thought provoking ideas. She recommends people to read the book “The Gift Of Fear,” which was written by Gavin de Becker, whom she met personally when she participated in the threat assessment academy. She also mentioned, when asked if she has a favorite charity, that one great organization to support which deals with educating about domestic violence was founded by the Yankees former manager Joe Torre’s Safe At Home Foundation http://www.joetorre.org/.
For more from Michelle Sports ‘X’, follow her on Twitter @SportSXMichelle. I thank her for her time and have no doubt we will chat again soon.