July 26, 1995 in Sports

Moon’s Reaction To Assault On Wife Called Inadequate

Bob Sansevere St. Paul Pioneer Press

Warren Moon has admitted he lost control. He has asked for forgiveness. He has gone into counseling. He is starting a foundation to help athletes and other prominent people cope with domestic abuse. In the week since his wife Felicia told police he hit her in the head with an open hand and choked her until she nearly passed out, Moon sure seems to be doing all the right things.

Or does he?

“There are many media reports where Warren Moon is getting a pat on the back. He’s not deserving,” said Julie Tilley. “I’m very surprised at the community and some of the media’s response. People are willing to accept the man’s mistake and move on. Not that we’re not gracious human beings ourselves, but he choked somebody to near unconsciousness.”

Tilley knows more about this sort of thing than most of us. She’s the communications coordinator for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, and she believes the steps Moon has taken are “woefully inadequate.” She also has problems with some of the things the Vikings’ quarterback has said.

“He’s not meeting any minimum standards of accountability. He continues to deny and minimize,” Tilley said. “Saying he lost control is just a classic example of that.”

That is what Moon said Friday - I lost control. His way of explaining what happened last Tuesday at his home in a Houston suburb.

“It’s very consistent with behavior of batterers to either deny, minimize or blame,” Tilley said. “It’s a very common excuse to say, ‘I lost control.’ When you’re using violence it’s the exact opposite of losing control. He used violence in an attempt to control Felicia. He wanted her to think a certain way, act in a certain way and she wasn’t agreeing to it.

“I don’t think (the Moons) are in the hands of very good counselors … if he came out and said he lost control. That’s absolutely the most inappropriate thing he could’ve said. He should come out with a stronger statement of remorse and accountability.”

Fact: At least one violent act occurs among married couples each year in 16 percent of all marriages nationwide. Severe repeated violence occurs in one out of 14 marriages, with an average of 35 violent episodes before a report is made.

Another thing that perturbs Tilley is Moon’s depiction of what happened between him and his wife. A Houston TV station reported last Wednesday that Moon told one of its anchorwomen, “it wasn’t domestic violence … it was a domestic dispute.”

Sunday, during a news conference in Minnesota with his wife at his side, Moon said he didn’t make such a statement. However, he still has not said, “I hit my wife.” Nor has he said, “I choked her until she nearly passed out.” He has called what happened an “incident” and also the “event.”

“I don’t care if he was misquoted and didn’t call it a domestic dispute,” Tilley said. “Calling it an incident is just as bad as calling it a domestic dispute. It’s not an incident. I consider it a serious lifethreatening assault.”

Fact: Ten women have died in Minnesota since the first of the year after being battered by a domestic partner. Since 1992, 88 women have died in Minnesota as a result of domestic violence.

“He very much minimized the assault,” Tilley said. “Nobody called it attempted murder. When you choke somebody near unconsciousness, I don’t know how you can call it anything but that.”

Authorities in Texas are calling it a misdemeanor. Moon was charged last Friday night with Class A misdemeanor assault, which carries a $4,000 fine and up to one year in jail. Arraignment was scheduled for Sept. 19.

As an athlete, Moon has been a role model for nearly two decades. Tilley would like to see him now become a role model for men who batter their wives.

“He can plead guilty to (the charges) and be accountable to the criminal justice system for his behavior,” Tilley said.

Speaking of accountability, Tilley also is concerned that Moon has talked about what happened last week as “a relationship or family problem.”

“It’s his problem,” she said. “It’s not a relationship problem. There’s nothing Felicia can or cannot do to make him not make threats against her. It’s his complete responsibility whether to batter or not batter.”

It’s also Moon’s responsibility to get help. He said he has made arrangements to meet with a counselor in Minnesota, something he actually did even before the assault on his wife. He said Monday he started seeing a counselor in Texas three weeks ago, but those meetings had nothing to do with domestic violence.

“There’s a lot of things about me I want to find out about myself that I’ve neglected for a long time,” Moon said Monday after the Vikings’ first practice of training camp. “Why am I driven to be so successful? … There’s a lot of things. Hopefully, I’ll get it all sorted out.”

While he’s at it, Moon might want to work on sorting out the direction of this new foundation he’s starting, a foundation that will be available primarily to successful and financially secure people.

“It’ll concentrate on people in the public eye. Athletes. Entertainers. Politicians,” Moon said.

What about the common folk? “It’s open to everyone,” Moon said, adding there are “a lot of these organizations” for common folk.

Fact: Battered women’s shelters in Minnesota respond to more than 98,000 requests for help annually. They shelter 10,000 women and children each year. The Twin Cities metro shelters report turning away as many as 70 percent of requests for shelter due to lack of space.

“I think the announcement of a foundation clearly is contrived in many ways through the advice of public relations professionals,” Tilley said. “I would call it poor advice. I believe Warren and Felicia Moon have been very charitable (over the years). I’m not sure why they don’t continue in that line and make resources available to stop domestic violence throughout the state.”

She’s right about that. Athletes, entertainers and politicians have the money to pay for their own counseling. It’s the average person out there who’s getting battered, or doing the battering, who needs the help.

“Because we have these sentiments and ideas, I don’t want to give you the idea we’re just sour pusses who aren’t happy with anything,” Tilley said. “I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for full accountability. I’m not saying Warren Moon hasn’t done some positive things and taken some positive steps. They’re just woefully inadequate in our opinion.”

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