By The Associated Press
NEW YORK ---The NFL sent a 17-minute video in November to high school and college coaches nationwide to encourage them to be aware of and act against domestic violence and abuse.
Entitled "NFL Call To Coaches -- Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness," the video includes strong messages from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin; NFL football operations executive Troy Vincent; Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin; former player and coach Joe Ehrmann; and Mike Rowe, the coach at Rocori High School in Minnesota.
"We recognize the incredible influence coaches can have on their players and how football can be used as an educational tool to affect change," Deana Garner, the NFL's director of player engagement and education, said. "To truly change a culture and behavior, and instill a personal accountability in living a life of character, you need to affect people when they are young."
The video is being distributed to high school football coaches by USA Football, the national governing body for the sport; the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), who will distribute it to high schools and coaches of a variety of sports; the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) to its network of coaches; and the High School Player Development program (HSPD) to its network of high school coaches.
Rowe's portion of the video is most powerful. The coach at the Cold Springs, Minnesota, school regularly engages in conversations with his players about character building and life skills.
He leads his players through an exercise in which they take turns reading actual police reports of incidents of domestic violence or sexual assault. As the reality of these scenarios sinks in, each player takes a pledge that: "This will not be me."
"I am a football coach, but I am an educator first," Rowe said. "You have an opportunity for the three to four hours of a day you have with a kid to make a difference.
"All those things, those situations, happen all the time in our society. You have to understand we have to respect all women, it starts with you. You can control the hallways, you can control what happens at a party or a dance.
"Your honor defines you as a man ... your virtue defines you as a man ... and your dignity defines you as a man."
Educational programming at league and youth football events is planned, including a December summit for 50 high school football coaches that will take place at the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando.
More long-term plans will focus on expanding existing educational programming and awareness efforts, including age-appropriate character development; healthy relationship education, as well as dating/domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault education for those who play, coach, or manage the game in college, high school and youth football programs.
"I think that since the beginning of time sport has been an awesome vehicle for societal change and awareness," Tomlin said. "I have never been afraid to openly discuss things that could be highly sensitive or emotionally charged. When you have that attitude, you provide an opportunity for yourself to grow and maybe learn something.
"We need to do what is right. I think that is a good approach in life to take, not only with domestic violence, but many things involving children or nuclear families. I think we all should embrace this platform we have, the responsibility we have with being leaders in our community, in our cities, and obviously hopefully evoke positive change."
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.