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Domestic Violence & Sports: What You Need to Know

You don’t need to be able to distinguish a touchdown from a homerun for you to have heard about one of the most pertinent issues in sports today: domestic violence by professional athletes. It is hard to go outside without hearing names like Ray Rice (football player) and Oscar Pistorius (sprinter) and the violent acts they have committed against their female partners. Domestic violence is a growing problem that affects society on a large scale, and it recently seems that more and more professional athletes are taking their aggression from the field and into the home.  Read on to learn what you, as a collegiette, should be aware of when it comes to domestic violence and sports.


1.     Domestic violence defined.

Domestic violence can be defined as “any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.”

2.     How this affects society.

1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lives, and victims experience high rates of mental illness, health conditions, and emotional distress.

3.     Correlation between professional sports players and domestic violence.

While it seems that professional athletes are high perpetrators of domestic violence, it has been found that as a group they actually are charged less than the general population. Their cases are just more salient because of their fame. People with higher incomes tend to have lower rates of domestic violence, and therefore the rate of arrest for professional athletes is much higher than is to be expected considering their high income level.

4.     It’s not just football.

The media often portrays football players as those charged most commonly, but other sports are just as involved. Some famous examples include: Lance Stephenson, NBA basketball player; Patrick Roy, NHL hockey player; and Brian Giles, MLB baseball player. Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., AKA the highest paid athlete in the world, also plead guilty in 2011 to beating up his wife, while his two children watched. 

5.     Most players get to keep on playing.

While the media commonly tells stories of athletes who are suspended after charges have been laid, most abusing athletes receive no consequences. Each major sports league has a different policy on domestic violence, many with unclear policies and ambiguous consequences relying on presumed innocence. Because of this, most athletes get to keep playing like nothing happened – especially if the case did not receive a lot of publicity. I’m sure this was not what Taylor Swift was suggesting when she said “the players gonna play play play play play”

6.     It’s not just male athletes.

While we most often hear about male perpetrated domestic violence charges, Hope Solo, the goalie for the US Women’s Soccer Team, was also recently accused of physical abusing her half sister and nephew. This incident serves as a reminder that domestic violence is gender-neutral.

7.     It’s not just the players.

A new study has found evidence suggesting a correlation between increased domestic violence by male football fans and the loss of a game by their favourite team. More information on this study can be found here.

8.     These players are role models.

The scariest part about such an incredibly prevalent social problem occurring in such an incredibly public manner is that those being accused are also the role models of this generation. Professional athletes get to live the dream of one’s passion becoming one’s profession, and so many people aspire to be just like them. The problem is, the role of “domestic abuser” becomes more intertwined with the role of “athlete” as players get to keep playing despite charges against them. As social beings we are far more malleable than we tend to believe, so normalizing domestic abuse is just one more step towards a more violent future generation.










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