SheforHe: How Emma Watson may have saved the NFL

SheforHe: How Emma Watson may have saved the NFL

College Contributor Network

Emma Watson just showed the National Football League its path to redemption.

The young actress' speech at United Nations headquarters was deliberate, poignant, and empowering, and it seems like it was addressed directly to the NFL. Watson spoke to promote UN Women's new "HeforShe" campaign, a movement to inspire men to join the gender equality movement.

Watson's speech was based around the idea of freedom: If men can shake off their society-given need to be insensitive and "masculine," then that in turn will set women free from male control.

"If men don't have to control, women don't have to be controlled." Watson said.

Now, the only thing to do -- GET ROGER GOODELL ON THE PHONE!

In the midst of Hurricane Rice-Peterson, Commissioner Goodell has made some halfhearted attempts to reconcile and repair his sport's image, but even his most recent press conference was met with scorn and disbelief. The commish kept saying that the NFL was focused on "getting better," but in the words of the immortal DMX -- talk is cheap.

The NFL needs to start walking the walk when it comes to its reformation, and for a league that always seems to be fumbling for answers, Emma Watson must be a godsend. Think about it -- one of the most male-dominated arenas in the entire world has recently seen its employees become the very things Watson discussed in her speech: dominating and controlling.

The league has perhaps never looked more hyper-masculine than it does right now, and at this exact same moment, a new movement has cropped up that encourages men to drop these stereotypes, stand up for themselves, and stand up for women. This is perfect! Too perfect! Why hasn't the NFL jumped all over this?!

Here is why: they have not been paying attention to Michael Vick. Remember how we said Emma Watson showed the path? Well, Michael Vick laid the brickwork. Check this out.

If you go back and read Vick's immediate statement following his guilty plea to the dogfighting conspiracy charges in 2007, one quote jumps out right away: "I take full responsibility for my actions . . . not for one second will I sit right here and point the finger and try to blame anybody else for my actions or what I've done. I'm totally responsible, and those things just didn't have to happen."

That is what has been missing from the NFL this whole time. We have been watching the blame-game for weeks and weeks, and never once did anyone say anything about "full responsibility." No one jumped out, stuck up their hand, and right away said that this was on them. Everyone waited around to see how others would respond, and no one took the direct weight of the issue. Vick looked remorseful back in 2007. The NFL now looks shifty and untrustworthy.

Jump ahead in the Vick timeline to 2009: just released from prison, the quarterback goes right on 60Minutes and apologizes again. He confesses that what he did was wrong, he talks about looking ahead and working with the Humane Society, and as for the contract he lost? He said, "I deserve to lose that." Vick did the time, served his punishment, and came out with a sincere interview right away.

And you know what? People believed him. It was real. He had changed, and he was going to start working for that change. So far, the only steps the NFL has hinted at are some kind of vague independent investigation, and the formation of a new conduct policy that, oh wait, is still under wraps. The authenticity we felt with Vick has not been felt with the league, and this is ultimately where things need to change. This is ultimately where Emma Watson can step in.

Now the rubber is supposed to meet the road. The NFL has made a lot of declarations, but there have been no actions to go with them. Remember Vick's behavior post-prison? He said he would support the Humane Society, and to date, he has spoken at dozens of anti-dogfighting events, been immensely supportive of their "End Dogfighting" and "Pets for Life" programs, and has even lobbied for harsher dogfighting penalties in Congress. He has worked tirelessly to fix what he did, going beyond his personal failings to address a larger issue.

This is where the NFL is failing. Everything right now is personal and in-house. No one is taking care of the bigger picture, and Emma Watson and UN Women just threw open the league's escape hatch with their "HeforShe" campaign. Slammed with a mess of male-violence incidents, the only way the NFL can truly start putting itself back together is if it turns outward. The league needs to join this cause in a proactive, prudent, and public way.

"HeforShe" is working to combat the very problems we have seen in the NFL these past few months, and if the league takes action in a tangible, honest way, it will not only be a voice for its own players, but it will be a voice for women and for gender equality. Looking at the case of Michael Vick, it is clear that the league's problems can be solved through sincerity and commitment. Looking at Emma Watson's speech, it is also clear that the avenue for this commitment is staring football right in the face.

"I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from this prejudice," Watson said. Maybe it can free the NFL too.

Tyler Daswick is a junior at Northwestern University. He is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers, Indiana Jones, and writing stories about cowboys and banditos. Follow him on Twitter: @AccordingtoDazz