October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in light of that and recent incidents such as the Ray Rice scandal, we wanted to get insight on professional sports marriages and explore the idea that aggression on the field can lead to violence in the home. So, we interview retired NFL cornerback Dante Wesley and his wife Renetta to learn more about football players, their aggression, questionable behavior in relationships and most importantly, whether the NFL should provide counseling to athletes and their partners. The Wesleys gave insight on what makes a high-profile marriage work through their new book FACTS Uncensored and in our interview they shared how young women should prepare for a relationship with a man who plays professional sports.
Why did you get married after you entered the league?
DW: The majority of NFL athletes don’t commit after they enter the league, if they’re not already in a relationship or married. The reason being, they are unsure about who they can trust and you do become a different person once you get drafted as well. Of course many women will act right and be on their best behavior if you are an athlete but the question remains: “are you dealing with a true person?” If they don’t get married or have a girlfriend before the league, they most likely won’t find anyone until they retire and back to being a normal person.
Why is infidelity so rampant among professional athletes?
DW: Honestly, you have to look at how a young man was raised. For me, I was the type of guy who was raised in a single parent household. I had to learn how to become independent on my own; so when I met my wife Renetta, that’s when I started to learn about family. Because of her, I had to take a look at myself and assess what I needed to change. A lot of athletes come from a similar upbringing so it isn’t until they meet their mate that they begin to conceptualize the notion of working together with a partner. I grew up doing what I wanted to do and no one could tell me anything. It took me a long time to understand what marriage is about and to actually behave as though I was married because I have a wife who I needed to respect. Also if you give an athlete who is 22 years old so much money and everything else that they want, of course they will have many women. The more money you have, the more women will come. Some women throw themselves after men like this and, of course, the men will take it for the simple fact that they are not used to the amount of attention they are receiving.
Is there a support system for football players who are married? Should there be one?
DW: I think with the Ray Rice assault receiving so much coverage, the NFL should create a system that helps married couples in the league. I wouldn’t mind participating to help and mentor some of the married players. The NFL does not have any support system in that sense for players right now because they are more concerned with other issues. Also, the Ray Rice assault is the only incident that was widely publicized because things like this have happened before with other players but it was covered up.
What was your reaction to the Ray Rice’s assault against his wife Janay?
DW: The way I look at the Ray Rice assault, I see two young people who are in an abusive relationship. I always say this, however the way male behaves in the relationship, the woman behaves too. For me, it was really hard to say how their relationship got to that point. I do not believe that was the first time they have fought like this. However, I do believe this is the first time their fighting reached such an alarming magnitude. I don’t think it was a good thing and I think the league should investigate more into their relationship.
RW: I agree with my husband, it was definitely not the first time that happened between them. It just so happened that they were caught on video behaving like that. We all have done something that we are not proud of. I don’t look at sides because some women, when their significant other does something stupid, they may react violently. People may be wrong but no one has the right to be hit. I think it’s important for this situation to remain between them and the public eye should stay out of it.
Several retired NFL players stated it requires a lot of anger to play football, do you agree?
DW: It is really hard to say because you do need to have a lot of aggression. As a player, you learn how to turn it on and off but people should know when interacting with an NFL player, you will deal with some type of aggression.
What personal advice would you give young men who plan to have a career in the league?
DW: Like Renetta said before, it is important to have a prayer life and find a good church home. Before I entered the league I was always in church but once I was drafted I drifted from going to church. I was more concerned about going to the club and forgot about what got me into the league. It took one day, during a conversation with Renetta when she was still my girlfriend, she said it was a shame I knew where all the clubs were but I still did not have a church home. It is important for younger players to stay grounded because you will make mistakes and do a lot of things that will make you slip but if you keep God by your side, you will get back on track.
If a woman decides to enter a relationship with an athlete, what should she prepare for?
RW: She has to pray first. To speak on Dante, he came from a country town where he was considered to be just one of the guys, transitioning into the league where he became the guy. All of a sudden, he looked so good to other women because of his career. Other women would come and wouldn’t be respectful; so for you to keep yourself under control, you have to pray and understand what you signed up for. You have to be strong and know who you are. Know that he loves you and be confident within yourself because the other women will still try to break that apart. It’s very hard. There were plenty of times I wanted to give up but my mother and other couples would encourage me.
What can you tell us about your book?
DW: FACTs Uncensored is a book about what life is like inside a professional sports marriage. A lot of people do not understand what goes on inside that particular kind of marriage, so it will give people insight.
For more information and to purchase your copy of the Wesleys’ book FACTs Uncensored, visit their website.
Editor’s Note: The Wesleys have not experienced domestic violence. In this interview, the couple shared their thoughts on what they have observed throughout Dante’s professional NFL career and within their own marriage.