CINCINNATI – The head of Women Helping Women says she’s grateful the Bengals gave her a meeting this week and she’s looking forward to continuing their discussion.
Kristin Smith Shrimplin told WCPO she reached out to the Bengals out of concern over their controversial decision to draft Joe Mixon last week. Shrimplin said she met for about 90 minutes with Bengals VP Troy Blackburn, Director of Business Development Bob Bedinghaus and Director of Communications Emily Parker.
Shrimplin said she told them It was not OK to draft Mixon, the Oklahoma running back who punched a woman in the face three years ago.
“Community leaders - and our pro sports teams, the Bengals, Reds and FC Cincinnati, are among them - should not hire or promote individuals with a history of violence. We have to get above and beyond that,” Shrimplin, president and CEO, said Friday.
But she said it was a positive meeting and hopes it leads to more.
“I think the Bengals were open to hearing our concerns, and we wanted to hear from them,” Shrimplin said. “We didn’t walk away with any agreement about what (a possible association) would look like in the future.”
Shrimplin said she made several important points in the meeting, namely:
Gender-based violence is increasing and prevention is crucial. Shrimplin said the Bengals and other sports teams have a responsibility to meet a higher standard and set an example for discouraging and preventing it among their players and staff. She said all pro teams need to provide regular training as well as counseling and crisis intervention when problems arise.
“I know the NFL set up programs post-Ray Rice,” she said, referring to the former Baltimore Ravens star who punched his girlfriend in a hotel elevator in 2014. The shocking video set off a storm of protests and pushed the NFL into dealing with a problem it had mostly ignored.
The NFL responded quickly and forcefully. It established a personal conduct policy, required mandatory education at training camp, and established a clear process for reporting and dealing with incidents.
The Bengals responded accordingly, Parker said in a statement to WCPO Friday.
“All Bengals players, coaches and staff participate in annual education sessions related to domestic violence and sexual assault. The education sessions are intended to help attendees not only understand the scope of behavior that constitutes domestic violence and sexual assault, but also the warning signs associated with these issues. Additionally, the Bengals have a Critical Response Team who has been trained to provide immediate and confidential crisis assistance – safety, medical, social services, and legal – to anyone in the Bengals family, including spouses, significant others, or other family members who experience abuse.”
Teams need to set a good example in their communities, Shrimplin said, and drafting Mixon sent the wrong message.
“We miss a lot of opportunities to really say what we support,” Shrimplin said, pointing out that the Bengals have an opportunity to participate in the NFL’s “NO MORE” Campaign of public service announcements.
“I definitely encourage the Bengals to do more,” she said.
Through its own programs, Shrimplin said Women Helping Women teaches prevention in 25 schools with over 4,000 youths. WHW also provides training for corporations, businesses and professional groups. That’s in addition to providing personal services for 7,000 survivors in Hamilton, Butler, Brown and Adams counties.
Shrimplin said WHW could provide supplemental training to the Bengals if they want it or offer its expertise in other positive ways.
“We fully understand what equality looks like. We fully understand what gender respect looks like. There should be absolutely no acceptance for gender-based violence,” she said.
In a Tuesday statement, the Bengals said they would consider ways to work with Women Helping Women.
“We applaud Women Helping Women for the work they do. The Bengals and Women Helping Women leadership met on Monday and we look forward to continuing our conversation as we look for ways to work together. We recognize the Bengals hold a special place in the community and we are committed to being good corporate citizens.”