Football game to call attention to the problem of domestic violence
By Chris Mazachrism@thereminder.com
SPRINGFIELD Football is a game predicated on violence, but the Western Mass. Warriors, a semi-professional football team, that calls American International College's Ronald J. Abdow Field home, is taking a stand to let people know that violence off the field is something that should never be tolerated.
At their Sept. 29 home game against the Connecticut Panthers, the Warriors will host members of the Springfield Police Department for a "Tackle Domestic Violence" event to bring awareness to one of the country's most frequent criminal offenses.
"We were approached by [Western Mass. Warriors Community Relations Representative] Renee Stewart who said the Warriors were interested in hosting an event to bring awareness to domestic violence and of course, we jumped on board," Milta Vargas, domestic violence coordinator for the Springfield Police Department, said.
According to Stewart, the Warriors have made a conscious effort to become active members in the community and with the recent passing of Springfield Police Officer Kevin Ambrose, who was shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence incident on June 4, the team felt a responsibility to make a statement.
"We have tried to be a part of this community and domestic violence is obviously something that has had a profound effect on many people in the city," she said. "Especially with the death of Officer Ambrose, the issue of domestic violence has been prevalent and we felt that sending a message that this is not OK is something we needed to do."
Vargas said that among the festivities at the event will be the presentation of plaques to the families of Ambrose, Charlene Mitchell, who was shot in the incident that claimed Ambrose's life, and Jessica Rojas, a Springfield City Hall employee who was stabbed in a domestic violence incident.
Stewart added that at halftime players and law enforcement officers will stand linked arm-in-arm in a show of solidarity and Mayor Dominic Sarno will be on hand for the opening coin toss.
The Warriors and the Police Department will also be encouraging men in attendance to take the White Ribbon Pledge.
"The White Ribbon Pledge is aimed at getting all men to stand against domestic abuse," Vargas said. "We will be asking men in attendance to sign a petition and bring home a white ribbon to show the women in their lives that they are against domestic violence."
Vargas said she was especially excited that the Warriors were hosting the event because of the fact that men will be front and center to speak out against domestic violence.
"I told an assistant of mine to do an Internet search and find positive stories about football and domestic violence and when they came back to me, they said they couldn't find any. Football and violence are synonymous it seems," she said. "But these are grown men stepping up to say that they are not going to allow domestic violence to continue. Most times you will see women and children standing up, but in this case, men who bring their sons and daughters to the game will see other men making a statement and I think that is so important."
Vargas said the event would also stress the idea that even those who may not be directly involved in domestic violence situations should always report.
"We say, 'See it, hear it, report it,'" she said. "Many times people hear something happening, but don't want to get involved, but they absolutely should. It also goes for sexual assault. If someone tells you they were sexually assaulted, you should feel a responsibility to help that person and call the police."
The game, the last on the schedule for the undefeated Warriors, is slated to kick off at 3 p.m. For more information, visit www.westernmasswarriors.com
or contact Warriors coach Junior Williams at 204-4167, Stewart at 233-7911 or Vargas at 787-6352.