Former NFL quarterback and College Football Hall-of-Famer Don McPherson came to campus to discuss domestic violence, gender roles and the importance of maintaining healthy relationships on Sept. 4, in the University Center.
McPherson, who attended Syracuse University and was the runner-up for the 1987 Heisman Trophy, has become a social activist since his retirement from football in 1994. He has been traveling to college campuses for about 23 years, speaking about how gender roles can contribute to crimes such as domestic violence and stalking. McPherson uses his sports platform to address complex social issues.
Tuesday night’s presentation, titled “You Throw Like a Girl,” talked about how important it is to maintain healthy relationships and how gender roles can lead to domestic violence. McPherson noted that people usually wonder why women stay in abusive relationships, but men need to be asked that same question.
“It’s about us as men not having that honest conversation about why abusive relationships happen,” McPherson told The Setonian. “We never talk about why men are abusive.”
One incident that McPherson discussed specifically was the Ray Rice domestic violence case. A lot of the conversation regarding the Rice incident did not center around the incident itself, but centered around NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the punishment, or lack thereof, that he issued. McPherson believes that this was not the conversation that we needed to be having about the issue.
“People say that he had this career that he threw away and he made a mistake. Men are abusive for a reason,” McPherson said. “This is not something that happened just because he’s a professional athlete. This is not something that happened because they were drinking.”
McPherson would go on to talk about the importance of healthy relationships. His message of healthy relationships resonated with freshman Natalia Surdyka.
“It’s really important for a person’s emotional and mental health to maintain healthy relationships with the people that you are close to,” Surdyka said.
McPherson believes athletes, and society as a whole, have come a long way when it comes to addressing domestic violence.
“Back when I was playing, back before we even had the sensibility to talk about these issues, it was not discussed. It was a non-issue,” McPherson said. “If someone did something so egregious that was violent or abusive, he wasn’t hailed as a hero, but he wasn’t shunned as a criminal or a bad guy.”
McPherson’s message to everyone present in the University Center on Tuesday night was clear: domestic violence has no place in our society and maintaining healthy relationships can help to prevent domestic violence. Hopefully, his words can help students make the right decisions and prevent them from committing such a serious offense.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.