Former NFL quarterback Don McPherson addressed the necessity of having an open dialogue about domestic violence against women and other social problems yesterday in Warren Hall. During his visit to Cornell, McPherson also spoke with male athletes, coaches and staff.
When discussing domestic violence, McPherson said, one must ensure there is an honest dialogue between participants. “It comes down to having the courage and leadership to address issues we are uncomfortable talking about,” he said.
McPherson said society tends to use “prevention language” such as “just say no” and scare tactics to deal with aggressive or violent behavior. For example, although adults often preach to college students about the problems of alcohol and violence, they do not hold an open conversation until a serious incident has occurred.
McPherson’s goal is to have an honest dialogue with students before such actions take place.
Citing that four women are murdered every day, McPherson wondered why society has long ignored this statistic. Silence is the worst way to address problems of domestic violence against women, said McPherson, because issues will constantly be passed down.
Although abuse against women has been viewed historically as principally a female problem, one cannot view it as such.
“If we see violence as just a woman’s issue, it allows men not to see themselves as part of the problem,” he said.
Even men who see themselves as “good guys” must be part of the dialogue, because the issues and experiences that impact women affect every man who they associate with, he said.
Criticizing mens’ expected social behavior and language, McPherson said men are trained from a young age how to display decidedly masculine characteristics. For young boys, “you throw like a girl” is the worst insult they can receive. He also recalled an experience that he witnessed about a boy who was castigated by his mother for crying and told to “act like a man.”
“If you are taught your feelings don’t matter, why should you pay attention to anyone elses’?” McPherson said. He said that by condoning such language, society is essentially endorsing overly aggressively behavior among men.
An all-American athlete in football and track during high school, McPherson went on to play quarterback at Syracuse University, where he achieved 22 school records. In 1987, he led Syracuse to an undefeated season and was a runner-up to the Heisman Trophy. After graduation, McPherson played two years for the Philadelphia Eagles before being traded to the Houston Oilers in 1990. He later returned to Philadelphia just a year later. McPherson also played in the Canadian Football League until 1994.
Yet despite his time in the NFL, McPherson said he does not identify himself as a football player.
“I’m a father, husband, teacher and son,” he said.
After retiring from football, McPherson joined Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, which trains former college athletes to participate in community service. He is now executive director of the Sports Leadership Institute at Adelphi University, which promotes a positive role for sports in society.
Adam Hollier ’07, who also heard McPherson speak Sunday night, said he found the speech compelling because it gave him more of an understanding of the problem off domestic violence. “[Violence against women] wasn’t something on my mind before, but the speech made me think more about it,” he said.
Ben Koffel ’07 enjoyed McPherson’s talk because it dealt with issues of domestic violence against women from a male perspective.
“The speech made me aware of the things in daily life that reflect on how you perceive the world around you,” he said.
McPherson’s visit to Cornell was sponsored by the Cornell Women’s Resource Center (CWRC), the Cornell Advocates for Rape Education (CARE), Cornell athletics, Sigma Phi society and Creating Chapters of Excellence.
Archived article by Olivia Oran
Sun Staff Writer