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September 16th, 2014
07:04 PM ET

Is domestic violence in the NFL as widespread as portrayed?

(CNN) – In the wake of scandals involving two of its star players, the NFL has a growing image problem, not only with fans, but also with sponsors.

Anheuser-Busch, a beer company that spent $34 million on Super Bowl ads last year, is taking the league to task.

"We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code," read a statement posted on the company's website.

But Houston Texans running back Arian Foster fired back, tweeting "domestic violence and alcohol (are) damn near synonymous."

"He's absolutely right," said sports columnist Kevin Blackistone. "We've all talked about the mixing of alcohol with high intensity emotional sports, and quite often the outcome is not very good."

The league is under fire for its poor handling of Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice, who was caught on camera violently punching his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City hotel elevator in February. Video of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator surfaced in March, pushing the league to suspend him for two games. The NFL eventually suspended Rice indefinitely, but only after the video from inside the elevator was published by website TMZ earlier this month.

The perception of the league and its domestic violence problem, is not in tune with the reality of how widespread these issues are in the NFL, says Blackistone.

"It's certainly not in line with the truth of the matter," he said. "The NFL has a problem, and well it should have a problem in the way that it's handled this."

The league knows how to handle problems with performance enhancing drugs, it needs to develop proper disciplinary actions on domestic violence, said Blackistone.

To that end, the NFL announced it hired four women to help shape its domestic violence policy, a move Blackistone says is clearly for "optics."

"Optics is what this has all been about in terms of the NFL's reaction. The optic of the second part of the video tape slugging Janay Rice sent this story to another level," said Blackistone.

The sports columnist noted it is odd that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell found "four white women, and could not find any women of color, or quite frankly any men, as if men are not a part of this entire problem, to handle this new front that he's going to have going on domestic violence."

The league is more than two-thirds black, domestic violence against black women occurs more frequently than against white women, and "black men are 63% more likely to be involved" in a domestic violence incident, says the sports columnist.

People who work with domestic violence victims say it is important not to kick out or shun abusers, "but to get them treatment, and to find out why it is they abuse once, and abuse again," said Blackistone.

"To go through the roster in your league and kick players out who've abused is not necessarily the best tactic," he said.

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