Two former football wives in the NFL are offering a dark picture of life inside the NFL when it comes to domestic abuse.
The New York Times this afternoon is telling the story of Brandy Underwood, former wife of Green Bay Packer Brandon Underwood; and Mercedes Sands, who was married to Robert Sands, a former player with the Bengals.
The pair said other wives told them to put up with infidelity, and keep quiet about “hostilities” in their marriages so that it wouldn’t upset the “success and harmony” of the team. The teams told them to keep everything in house.
In January 2013, Sands called 911 to report her husband had choked her. It was a day before a playoff game.
Ms. Sands expected support and concern, but she was met with silence, she said. “No one was there,” said Ms. Sands, now 25. “The wives weren’t there. No one answered my phone calls.”
She was calling them to ask for help. Her husband had cleared out their joint checking account and canceled her credit card, leaving her alone in their home with no money. During the final weeks of her pregnancy, she said, she relied on food stamps and church handouts.
In June 2010, Mrs. Underwood got a report that her husband was being investigated for the sexual assault of two women.
The NFL culture swung into action, the Times reports.
One wife emailed her: “Nobody is perfect. Not u or me. We might not cheat or do dumb stuff like guys, but we do have flaws. Who is say that ours are better than theirs?”
Ms. Underwood found the reaction confusing. The attitude, she said, was that “we have to be strong for our men.”
She said she felt she had nowhere to turn. “You don’t really know who to call,” she said. “They are more worried about protecting a team’s name or player than a wife.”
Still, she found it too daunting to leave, especially because Mr. Underwood controlled the money.
It was not until the next year that she began making plans to divorce her husband; she left him about two months after his arrest on the night of the ring ceremony. (Mr. Underwood pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge in that case, paying $767.50 in court costs.)
Neither the NFL nor the Packers contacted her after she called the police, according to the story.
Related: Adrian Peterson addresses absence from an NFL discipline hearing (USA Today).