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Local groups hope NFL lends support

| Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a news conference to address domestic violence issues and the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy, in New York, Sept. 19, 2014.
REUTERS
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a news conference to address domestic violence issues and the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy, in New York, Sept. 19, 2014.

Local domestic violence advocacy groups said they would welcome support from the NFL, which on Friday announced a wide-ranging initiative to help victims as it began the process of repairing its image in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal.

“It's been a long time in coming,” said Laurie MacDonald, president and CEO of the Center for Victims, Downtown. “Domestic violence is no stranger to the Steeler organization. It's unfortunate that the Rice family has to be the focus of the wake-up call, but we're glad (the NFL) is starting to focus on the problem.”

Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten declined to comment.

Shirl Regan, president and CEO of the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, said her organization has partnered with the Steelers in the past, having players come to the shelter to serve meals to women and children.

Cornerback William Gay, whose mother was killed in a domestic incident, has appeared in videos promoting the group.

“We're always looking for funding. For example, last year we had to turn away 1,000 women and children,” she said. “More money would allow us to help more people — shelter, food housing, counseling, helping to obtain protection-from-abuse orders.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said all teams received information to connect with local organizations “for both personnel matters and public service.” None of the four groups who spoke to the Tribune-Review had yet heard from the Steelers.

The biggest initiative is a financial partnership between the league and The National Domestic Violence Hotline, which experienced an 84 percent spike in calls last week, Goodell said. The league is partnering with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

The national hot line connects callers with local resources, including the Center for Victims, the Women's Center & Shelter, Crisis Center North and the Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center.

Kara Sroka, development specialist with Crisis Center North, said she hopes the local outreach will promote more communication between sports teams and domestic violence centers. She suggested the NFL sell purple merchandise, the color of domestic violence awareness, as it sells pink merchandise to promote breast cancer awareness.

“We're talking about young students seeing professional athletes as role models. All these domestic violence issues, this is the exact opposite of what we're trying to teach our young males,” said Sroka, who said her group experienced an uptick in calls in the past week.

Peg Dierkers, executive director of Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a network of 60 domestic violence centers, said the Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles need to realize their impact reaches statewide.

“We would hope the NFL would recognize their pervasive cultural impact and step up with funding to support making a big difference,” Dierkers said.

Staff writer Mark Kaboly contributed. Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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