Defense secretary has asked staff for info about military's relationships with the NFL
A senior administration official said the league needs to "get a handle on" the situation
Millions of dollars and years of a close relationship are at stake
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked his staff for detailed information about the U.S. military’s relationships with the National Football League in the wake of the scandal over how the league is handling domestic-abuse allegations against players, CNN has learned.
News of the Pentagon review comes on the same day a senior Obama administration official decried recent domestic abuse episodes within the NFL and said the league needs to “get a handle on” the situation since so many professional athletes are considered role models to younger players.
The Pentagon is increasingly sensitive to any suggestion it is supporting a major sports organization that is perceived to tolerate domestic violence.
“The secretary wants to fully understand that relationship, in case he decides to make some changes to it,” a senior defense official told CNN.
The military has a zero-tolerance policy in the ranks for domestic abuse, but it also has a high-profile relationship with the NFL that goes back decades. Any Pentagon action to cut back support for the NFL would be the most direct involvement by the Obama administration yet in the scandal.
Millions at stake
The Army alone spends some $10 million a year buying advertising from television networks broadcasting NFL games. Games are also broadcast by the Armed Forces Network to troops deployed overseas.
Military support for the NFL games includes: providing ceremonial units at games for colors ceremonies; military personnel singing the national anthem, and other units providing drill teams or flyovers. Military personnel, including wounded warriors, often appear at NFL events honoring those who serve.
The Army and the NFL also have a agreement to share information and resources to better understand traumatic brain injury, which is a major medical issue both for wounded troops and football players. They are working together on awareness of TBI as well as research into treatment. The military has been sharing some of the lessons learned on TBI from the last 13 years of war, specifically.
Another program, NFL Play 60, has seen players visit military bases to encourage children to be more active as least 60 minutes a day to help prevent childhood obesity.
It is clear the White House is also closely monitoring the NFL controversy, with one senior administration official calling recent abuse allegations “deeply troubling” and stressing the league’s obligation to “(get) control of the situation.”
“Many of these professional athletes are marketed as role models to young people,” the official said. “So their behavior does have the potential to influence these young people. So that’s one of the many reasons it’s important the league gets a handle on this and have zero tolerance.”
Four NFL players made headlines this week over allegations of abuse:
– Jonathan Dwyer, 25, a running back for the Arizona Cardinals, was released on bond Thursday after his arrest on charges he assaulted his wife and their toddler son.
Peterson, a running back and one of the league’s premier players, has been charged in Texas with child abuse on allegations he injured his 4-year-old son this summer. Peterson’s attorney said the “charged conduct involves using a switch to spank his son.” Hardy, a star defensive end, has been convicted of misdemeanor assault charges in North Carolina and has been granted the opportunity to have a new trial, this time in front of a jury.
– The NFL Players Association on Tuesday filed an appeal on behalf of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, whom the NFL suspended indefinitely after a security video emerged that shows him knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in a hotel elevator in February.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.