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Mother of Saints' Eli Apple using platform to

help women dealing with domestic violence

Ron Walker | | 09.03.2019

Annie Apple talks to God daily.

But she didn't really want to talk to him on this particular day.

The New Orleans Saints had just lost in the NFC championship game and she was just as disappointed as her son Eli Apple and the rest of his teammates.

It wasn't just that they had lost. It was how they lost — the infamous no-call on what should have been a pass interference — that made this one hurt so much. 

"God I'm just not speaking to you right now," Apple said that day. "When you watch your son and teammates work so hard, you want it so much for them."

Apple is a writer. Her background is in journalism. Her previous work includes a weekly column she wrote for Sports Illustrated during her son's playing days with the New York Giants. So she had a few suggestions to God for a better script that day, one that would have sent the Saints instead of the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl.

"You could have written it like this or like this," she said.

God spoke back to her the next day.

"I heard God say clear as day 'You don't get to dictate how I write your story,'" Apple said. "In that moment and time, I felt such a release. All of a sudden, I felt moved to use football as a platform in a way that we all get to win."

That moment was the birth of the HealHer Network, Apple's mobile support outreach for women who are victims of domestic violence. Apple's a survivor of domestic violence and now she's doing her part to make sure more women are survivors.

On the day before the Saints kick off their season, Apple will kick off hers.

She'll host the first stop on her survivors’ empowerment tour Sunday in downtown New Orleans.

Every week during the NFL season, HealHer Network will visit designated NFL cities and connect with women who have suffered trauma from physical abuse.

"She has always been caring and always wanting to give back and always wanted to impact lives," said her son Eli, entering his second season as cornerback with the Saints. "She has a big heart and you can see that now. She just wants to do what she can to spread wisdom and knowledge in helping people."

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of four women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner.

The tour will head to Los Angeles the following week when the Saints travel to play the Rams. The HealHer Summit in L.A. will not only address domestic violence, but will also include support for mothers who have lost children to gun violence.

"What better way to connect football with empowerment workshops that help survivors rebuild their lives," Annie Apple said. "Getting to do this regularly during the season where you share a part of you with other women who have similar stories takes a lot. But I'm definitely excited about it. We will help women reset, recharge and rediscover their joy. Those are the steps I needed to move forward with my life."

She says the event will be "high-energy" and open and honest. She has told her story before.

It was three years ago when she penned an article for Sports Illustrated about her experiences with domestic violence. An excerpt from that piece:

He grabbed my head and banged it against the wall, leaving a dent in the drywall. I saw my two little boys looking at me with fear in their eyes. It tore my soul to the core. Something in me broke. I knew today would be the last day. I didn't know what life would be like with two little boys and a baby on the way, but I knew this was no life. Even if I didn't know I deserved better, I knew my kids did. I held in my tears because I didn't want them to see me break for fear it would break them.

It was the most transparent she had ever been about her situation. She wrote it because of the way the New York Giants, who her son was playing with at the time, handled a well-documented domestic violence case involving kicker Josh Brown. Court documents had been released about a domestic violence case against Brown. In those documents, Brown admitted to abusing his then-wife Molly. Giants co-owner John Mara admitted to re-signing Brown even after having known about previous domestic abuse incidents. The Giants took a lot of criticism on how they handled the situation and made him inactive for their next game. The NFL put Brown on the commissioner's exempt list while it looked into the incident and he was released by the Giants a few days later and hasn't played in the NFL since.

"I was a survivor, so I felt I needed to write that for Molly," Apple said.

Three years later, she's taking her advocacy on domestic violence a step further with her HealHer Network.

"This is just the beginning right now," Eli said. "I know her. She'll expand it and make it even bigger."

So while Eli anticipates the start of the season Monday night against the Houston Texans, his mom eagerly awaits the start of hers as well.

"It's not a handout, but we want to give women an opportunity to fulfill their dreams," she said. "We are real people. Our safety and our dignity is important. It's going to be high energy. It's going to be a party. If we can help one woman, we're good."

If you are interested in attending Sunday's HealHer Network session or want more information, email

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Off the Bench | Interview

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Courtney Humphrey, HealHer Network | 201.310.2552

Social media: @healhernetwork

Annie and Eli Apple Launch HealHer Network, Mobile Support Outreach for Women

Seventy-five close friends and supporters filled the Manhattan Penthouse in New York City on
Friday, May 10th to launch HealHer Network, a mobile support outreach for women founded by
journalist, domestic violence survivor, and NFL mom Annie Apple. HealHer Network is a mobile
support outreach that empowers and equips women to reset, recharge, and rediscover their joy.
Annie Apple, former ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown contributor and SI year-long weekly
columnist and her son, Saints CB, Eli Apple along with NFL players and their moms kicked off
Mother’s Day weekend with a celebration of the power and resilience of the female spirit.

It was truly a family affair as friends and supporters from broadcast journalist and activist Jemele
Hill and her mother, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and his mother Dawn Elliott,
parents of Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins, Bernadette Suh, mother of LA Rams
Ndamukong Suh, and mother and grandmother of Saints safety Vonn Bell. The black-tie event
launched the nonprofit movement that aims to provide voice, support and empowerment to women
who have survived trauma, kicking off this football season.

During the NFL season, HealHer Network will visit designated NFL cities connecting with women
who have suffered trauma. From survivors of domestic violence and sexual assaults, mothers
whose children have committed suicide to mothers who lost children to gun violence, HealHer
Network will equip and empower women to live beyond their wounds. In its inaugural season,
HealHer Network will focus on survivors of domestic violence. “Long after a woman leaves an
abusive relationship or marriage, the effects of domestic violence linger. Broken, bruised, and
battered bodies are the obvious signs of domestic abuse, but emotional, psychological and
financial wounds also need our care and attention. HealHer Network strategically addresses
those wounds and provide women the resources, emotional and economic tools and support
to help them take back their lives,” said Annie Apple, founder and president of HealHer
Network. “What better way to connect America’s favorite game than to pair it with
empowerment workshops that help survivors rebuild their lives.” HealHer Network mobile
support workshop, HealHer Huddle, kicks off week one in New Orleans then heads to Los
Angeles when the Saints take on the Rams in week two with two events in the city: HealHer
Huddle for domestic violence survivors and a special HealHer Summit for mothers who have
lost children to gun violence. “This is a compassion tour. Compassion doesn’t pity.
Compassion embraces the pain and trauma of others and empowers them to live and thrive
beyond the pain.” Other cities include: Chicago, Tampa, Atlanta, Nashville and Charlotte.
“When the world is its darkest, that’s when we are to be a bright light.” Annie Apple hopes
to shine with HealHer Network.


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