Mother's death leads NFL player to fight domestic abuse

Sat Nov 22, 2014 7:06am EST
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By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay remembers arriving at the hospital as a confused 7-year-old trying to understand why members of his family were sobbing uncontrollably.

He soon learned that his mother had been shot in the back three times. The assailant, Gay's stepfather, shot himself in the head, the .38 caliber revolver landing between the bodies.

Gay's mother, Carolyn Hall, was alive for five hours at the hospital before succumbing, while her husband died instantly. If life in a Tallahassee, Florida, housing project was tough already, things just got a lot more demanding for William Gay.

But the 1992 tragedy ultimately turned Gay into an advocate for women threatened by domestic violence, a scourge that landed on the doorstep of the National Football League this year and undermined its leadership.

Several of the league's top players, including Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, have seen their domestic violence cases play out publicly and sponsors have been vocal critics of the league's initial light sanctions for the stars.

As the NFL tries to re-establish its credibility on the issue, including beleaguered Commissioner Roger Goodell, the 29-year-old Gay finds himself in a unique position of helping fellow players avoid violence against wives, partners and children.

Gay never knew there were problems in his home. There was no fighting and no visible bruises on his mother.

"I dealt with a lot of anger because I felt like, 'Why me?'" he said softly. "I threw out that question a lot. I got to a point where I didn't care. I felt like no one cared about me. Didn't care about school. I started lashing out at people."   Continued...

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay (22) intercepts a pass by Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger (7) and scores a touchdown during the first half at LP Field.  Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports