- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Beth Sturman’s voice lights up when she remembers a fund-raising gala that she helped put on for Laurel House a few years ago. Most of the volunteers in charge were women, she recalled, so naturally their husbands and boyfriends were drafted into service.

They moved tables. They set up chairs. All the heavy lifting that you’d expect.

Seeing as Tammy Reid was helping to organize it, it made sense that her husband was right in the middle of things - even if Andy Reid was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

“He’s a busy man as a coach, especially from August on,” Sturman said, “but Andy was so involved at every level, everything from being willing to host an event at their home to making a public statement in support of our work.”

Yes, even to doing a bit of manual labor.

When Reid was hired by the Eagles in 1999, he told Tammy to focus on a couple of charities where they could devote their attention. Laurel House was one of them, a comprehensive domestic violence agency that serves families and communities in the Philadelphia area.

Over time, it became much more than that, a cause closer to Reid’s heart. That’s why a series of high-profile incidents involving some of the NFL’s biggest names - the Ravens’ Ray Rice, the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, the Panthers’ Greg Hardy - have been especially troubling to Reid, who has continued to support Laurel House even after taking over the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I’ve seen both sides of it and talked to people from both sides of it,” Reid said this week. “It needs to come to the front here, and I’m glad to see that it is from that standpoint.”

Reid’s not happy the way things have transpired, though.

Whether it’s the infamous elevator video in which Rice punched his then-fiance, knocking her unconscious, or the details of Peterson’s alleged beating of his 4-year-old son with a switch, the issue of domestic violence has jarred the NFL. Sponsors, politicians and activists have expressed dismay at the league’s handling of the issue, overshadowing anything happening on the field.

And just when things seem to quiet down, another issue pops up. On Wednesday, Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested amid accusations that he attacked his wife.

Each time something happens, Reid talks to his players about it.

“Listen,” he said, “I think if we can just say this has enlightened us on the issue, if we can come out saying that - because this is part of life today, not that it hasn’t been in the past - but if it can help make things better, I think that’s what we’re all striving for right now.

“I’m glad it’s been addressed,” Reid said. “I think positive things can happen.”

Reid’s message seems to have taken hold in the Chiefs locker room.

“Everyone is raised differently. Everyone has a different household,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. “But at the same time, you have to respect the culture we live in now.”

A culture that has become increasingly aware of domestic violence.

“The biggest thing, and coach even talked about it, is trying to prevent any of those things from happening,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “It’s giving guys help and resolving problems before they get to things like that.”

Laurel House was founded more than three decades ago to provide a safe haven for victims of domestic violence. Along with housing, it offers a 24-hour hotline, counseling and support groups, children’s programs and educational programs.

“I know that some teams are asking, ‘How can we do our part to help raise awareness?’ Because the reality is most men aren’t abusive,” said Sturman, Laurel House’s executive director. “Most professional athletes aren’t abusive, and most would be horrified if someone treated their wife or child that way. Most want to do the right thing, and a lot of the work can be done by a man simply telling another man, ‘Hey, that’s not cool.’”

In a given year, Laurel House will answer 1,200 hotline calls. It will shelter dozens of women and children. It will educate 5,000 adults, students, police and medical personnel.

“This has been a horrible situation, the Ray Rice situation, all these situations,” Sturman said, “but the fact that it has opened up conversation and has gotten men talking, as well as women, hopefully more men will start stepping forward and asking, ‘What can we do to help?’”



Laurel House website: https://www.laurel-house.org/

AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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