This week, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson announced the launch of his new effort called the “Why Not You Foundation.” Writing for Derek Jeter’s new player-exclusive platform, Wilson said the Foundation will raise funds and awareness for worthy causes – the first of which is domestic violence.
Borrowing from the art of peer pressure cause marketing, the campaign calls on participants to challenge a friend to Pass the Peace by making a minimum $2 donation to The National Domestic Violence Hotline. (In his Facebook video challenge debut, Wilson challenged Justin Timberlake and Derek Jeter to Pass the Peace.) And for the moment, Wilson’s good-guy image will help the National Football League cushion its tone-deaf response on domestic violence and sexual assault. (Just look up the hashtag #PassThePeace to see how well this is already working.)
The impressive feat is not so much the fact that it’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month and an NFL player is launching a domestic violence campaign, but that a much deeper silence could be breached thanks to this precedent.
As far as I’m concerned, Wilson really didn’t need to throw his sins on the altar to write the piece. He didn’t need to prove some sort of “right” to speak or care about domestic violence. Hence the reason I find the Players Tribune, perhaps, equally as impressive as its first senior editor: with The Players Tribune, Derek Jeter has created an unfiltered space for athletes – regardless of the League – to speak freely. How powerful and affirming is that? During this time, when advocates are fighting to erase the silence that allows intimate partner violence to flourish, it’s an amazing thing to learn that a forum has been created to engage and unbridle a demographic like this.
Writing about the vision behind The Players Tribune and his recent retirement from Major League Baseball, Derek Jeter articulated how media scrutiny can stunt athletes’ ability to really express themselves. “I’m not a robot,” Jeter wrote. “Neither are the other athletes who at times might seem unapproachable. We all have emotions. We just need to be sure our thoughts will come across the way we intend.”
When so many people want to believe the fight to end domestic violence and sexual assault is somehow about penalizing and punishing males, an innovation like this in such a prototypically masculine space is nothing short of revolutionary. This rips the veil that would otherwise maintain the illusion of the one-dimension professional athlete, and it gives permission for – wait for it, wait for it – DIALOGUE.
Now we actually get to discuss things. With athletes!
There can be an exchange of ideas. With professional athletes!
There can be an identification of new problems, new solutions, new alternatives, methodologies, and approaches to finding culture-shifting solutions to the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault – with the role models and culture makers and superheroes we deify as professional athletes.
Giving high profile quarterbacks a mic to sound off about why they support survivors of domestic violence could be sending shockwaves through some Pop Warner Little Scholars League right now – and that is absolutely what this larger movement is about. So thank you for Passing the Peace, Russ. And thank you, Derek Jeter, for creating this safe space for professional athletes to commune.
This really could be a gamechanger.
To Pass the Peace and learn more about the campaign, text WNYPassThePeace to 41444 or visit www.whynotyoufoundation.com.