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Wally Williams is a 6'2'', 320-pound former offensive lineman who played for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and New Orleans Saints during a ten-year NFL career. During that time he had problems with substance abuse, injuries, and domestic violence, but his wife Dewan Smith-Williams says the league discouraged her from seeking help.

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Smith-Williams came forward this week to say that during an incident 2002 when her husband became violent, an NFL representative told her to not call the authorities, but took no action themselves. She says that when Williams was suspended from the Saints for drug use, the couple began arguing.

“He went and got a baseball bat and was hitting the walls and doors. I ran into a room, shut the door and called his NFL liaison to say I was really afraid,” she told the New York Daily News. "[The liaison] said, ‘Don’t call the police, we’ll handle it.’ They said I should let Wally leave and they’d call me back to check up on me. That never happened."

This mysterious liaison was not the only one to dissuade her from pressing charges. In a prior incident, after Williams tried to choke her, she says local police urged her not to press charges, "I called the police, and they stood there chatting about football and who would be picked in the draft." Because of her unsatisfactory experience with authorities the first time, she called the NFL the second time around, only to deal with an equally unhelpful official.

Smith-Williams has called the NFL the "good old boys system" which protects their players at any cost—even the cost of violence to their families. Though the incident happened a number of years ago, and now she and her husband are estranged, Smith-Williams felt the need to speak up because of the Ray Rice incident. "I’m afraid the next woman is going to end up in a body bag," she told the Daily News, "These men play a violent game and become stars based on their aggression on the field. And it can carry over."

She also is able to understand Janay Rice, in a way others cannot. She sympathized with Mrs. Rice's choice to stay with her husband, "Right now she's on an island. She feels she has to protect her family, the man she says she loves and her life as she knows it." Rice has spoken publicly only once since the incident, condemning the media for their involvement.

Shockingly, Smith-Williams still believes that Ray Rice should be able to rejoin the NFL. "My heart tells me, hell no, he does not deserve to play again. But I know there are two sides to every story, and we’ve all made poor choices in life and deserve a second chance."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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