Murph's Turf: Football players, moms to walk in right direction

Yes, the National Football League is three weeks into its 2014 regular season, with a total of 48 games played through Monday of last week.

Anyone unaware that games have been played has a credible excuse: The league is currently generating far more attention for what happens off the field rather than on it.

This is not good for the NFL. A glut of recent misbehavior — lowlighted by video showing Ray Rice knock his wife-to-be unconscious with a punch in an elevator — has left the league and team owners clumsily trying to deal with the perception that a good percentage of its players are prone to violence seven days a week.

As an online chart illustrated last week, it’s now possible to construct an NFL depth chart based on players who have either been accused of or arrested for domestic violence and also list back-ups at most positions.

Closer to home, the Ridgefield High football team has also gotten itself involved in an off-the-field event. But in this case, the example is one to applaud and emulate.

On Sunday, Oct. 5, the majority of Ridgefield’s varsity, junior varsity and freshmen football players will don their orange jerseys and take part in the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury’s annual Safe Walk inside the Danbury Fair Mall. Accompanying the players will be their mothers, dressed in their sons numerically matching white uniforms.

“It’s an educating moment,” said Kevin Callahan, the head coach of the Ridgefield varsity football team. “It’s a good opportunity for the mothers to have that conversation with their sons about domestic violence.”

The football program’s involvement was sparked by Ridgefielder Kathy Graham, a Women’s Center board member who works at the Fairfield County Bank. The bank has been a supporter for the Women’s Center and has entered a team, called Strength in Numbers, for past Safe Walks. For the last several walks, Strength in Numbers has been the top fund-raising team, and Graham thought the RHS football players might make a timely addition this year.

“With all that’s been happening in the NFL, I decided to contact Kevin Callahan,” she said. “These players who are brothers and sons now are going to be husbands and fathers one day. I thought that having them involved with our team could make a great statement.”

Graham’s initial idea was for the RHS varsity players to participate, but Callahan expanded that vision to include the sub-varsity players. Booster club secretary John Pambianchi then suggested asking the moms to walk along with their sons.

“The boys are so busy this time of year with practice, games and their studies,” said football booster club president Heather Bonaparte, the mother of a current player (Charlie Bonaparte) and a former player (Will Bonaparte). “The moms are happy to spend quality time with their boys and, in turn, raise awareness of the horrors of domestic violence.”

Even the moms of graduated players are contributing. Graham said that Mary Jones, the mother of former RHS linebacker Adrian (A.J.) Jones and the owner of Rodier Flowers in Ridgefield, has agreed to make ribbons for the moms to wear at the walk.

“It’s been uplifting to see the response and how it has grown,” said Graham. “Domestic violence is an issue that has touched many people’s lives, not just those in the NFL.”

Despite the letdowns often involved, many high school players still regard their professional counterparts as inspiring role models. In this case, however, the model is inverted — Callahan and his players are the ones leading by example. 


For more information about the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury and the Safe Walk, visit wcogd.org.

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