Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is leading a new effort to rehabilitate the NFL’s image on domestic violence. On Thursday, he launched “Pass the Peace,” a new initiative to raise awareness and funds for victims, via baseball icon Derek Jeter’s new athlete-driven website, The Players Tribune.
Wilson, who led the Seahawks to the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl victory in February, penned an essay for the site titled “Let’s Talk About It,” in which he encouraged readers to contribute to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and his own charity organization, The Why Not Foundation.
“I want us to Pass the Peace to support victims of domestic violence. The idea behind Pass the Peace is simple: It’s a promise. I’m sharing my love for you. I want to take care of you. I am here for you,” Wilson wrote.
In the same vein as the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge,” Wilson’s Pass the Peace project encourages participants to join (by recording themselves flashing a peace sign), donate and persuade others to rally to the cause of combating domestic violence. In his own personal video, Wilson ”passes the peace” to Jeter and pop star Justin Timberlake.
In his written piece, the 25-year-old superstar conceded that he was a “bully growing up” who used to “beat people up a lot.”
“In elementary and middle school, I threw kids against the wall. I rubbed their heads in the dirt at recess. I bit them. I even knocked teeth out,” he wrote. Wilson, who has donated $2 million to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, believes his fellow players are ‘reluctant to address such a sensitive issue.’”
“As NFL players, we do not play a gentle game. But our hits, our anger, our aggressive behaviors need to be regulated and confined to the field,” Wilson added.
Wilson was selected by Jeter to serve as the senior editor of The Players Tribune, which the ex-Yankee shortstop debuted after his retirement from baseball last week. The goal of the site is to “present the unfiltered voices of professional athletes.” The Seahawks quarterback has been widely praised for his squeaky clean persona and poise as a player.
The NFL could use a spokesman like Wilson right now. The league and its embattled commissioner, Roger Goodell, are reeling from weeks of bad press following the high profile abuse cases of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, as well as a myriad of other recent arrests of players for domestic abuse.
“I can’t fix the world. I can’t fix the NFL. I can’t change the guys around me. The only person I can change is the one in the mirror. I’m not a perfect person by any means. I’m just a recovering bully. But if we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it. For those of us in the NFL, there’s no excuse for violence off the field,” writes Wilson.