Over the last 10 plus years we have watched many incidents, in fact too many, take place within the sports industry that have involved very serious crimes and disappointing outcomes. The media has become obsessed with exposing and exploiting these reportings while the public continue to debate on who is right or wrong. It’s disturbing for me as a diehard sports fanatic to watch how this domino effect is sending a negative message to young kids, parents, venues, women and the list goes on. We discuss the issues until we are blue in the face but what are we doing to bring change? What are we contributing to bring awareness to the true culprit? Who or what is the “true culprit?” As I thought about this issue I read over several studies on violence & sports and our make up as humans. There are two theories that explain why the two support each other. One holds that humans have an instinct for violence, developed during a time when early human ancestors had to resort to violence and aggressiveness to survive.^ Another theory deals with the sociological aspects of violence in sports, stating that sports are “mock battles” which can become actual battles due to their competitive nature.^ This includes not only the athletes but fans and ritual violence (known as hazing.) Modern sports have become less tolerant of bloodshed than in the past but many violent aspects still exist.
Athletes use violence as a form of intimidation which sometimes is a strategy for coaches and players. Boxing is an extremely violent sport within itself and now we have MMA which is no holds barred! Next we have American Football, ice hockey, lacrosse and rugby. Do fans and spectators find contact sports more entertaining than non-contact sports? Based on the results from a study done they concluded that 67% of the population likes to watch contact sports more than non-contact. Many times athletes also have initiation ceremonies that involve hazing as a rite of passage. These ceremonies more often than not are alcohol-related and have lead to death in some cases.
This violence continues with fans. Think about how many occurrences in our recent history that involved fans; and in most cases alcohol is often in the mix of it all making matters escalate further and sometimes even more violently. I know the energy behind this date back to the Roman times when supporters of chariot racing would end up in major riots. These events were used as outlets for underlying social tensions.
I found another study that compared the crime rates in the 3 different professional sports – NFL, NBA, MLB. This study is a few years old so I’m sure the numbers have changed within each sport but it was very disheartening to see the stats none the less . Athletes have been arrested for betting and gambling, using steroids, bribery, violence and murder, theft, fraud, using drugs, DUIs, illegal possession of weapons, sexual assault and more. The study found that violence/murder and drug use are the most common crimes committed by players. The use of steroids has been a major problem in the MLB. 5 to 7 percent of all anonymous tests on players come back positive for steroid use. NFL players seem to be more inclined to break the law. In 2010 the NFL experienced 507 arrests of its players; since 2000, about 1 in 45 NFL players get arrested each year NFL players have also served more time in jail than players in other leagues, though there is one NBA player serving a life sentence; MLB players served the least amount of time The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes compiled statistics studying sports and society and the outcome was so upsetting to those affiliated with college sports that it was decided not to publish the results. This study was done by Jeff Benedict who also wrote ‘The System’ the glory and scandal of big-time college football.
This 3 year study showed that while male-athletes comprise 3.3% of the population, they represent 19% of sexual assault perpetrators and 35% of domestic violence perpetrators. (Benedict/Crosset Study)
One in three college sexual assaults are committed by athletes. (Benedict/Crosset Study)
36.8% of athletes were charged with assault. (Benedict/Crosset Study)
A new incident of athlete crime emerges once every two days-that does not include crimes that were reported in the media.(NCAVA)
20% of college football recruits in the TOP 25 Division I have criminal records
A college rapist will have raped seven times before being caught
How disturbing is this for you? How does this change your perception about sports? The majority of studies have males in sports under a microscope and of course there are issues within the women sports which rates at about 28%; This could be another topic because female “outside of the game” problems have also been exposed just not as often. October is the month for domestic violence awareness and it has brought much needed exposure not only to the issue but also to the inconsistencies in the conduct policy within the Professional sports industry; especially in the NFL. Long before Ray Rice there was Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson which pushed for the NFL to address domestic violence. This defensive tackle became a symbol of the league’s approach to domestic violence after he was accused of hitting his pregnant girlfriend. (espn.go.com) Two years later the commissioner was empowered to hand out suspensions and stiff fines to any player convicted of a domestic violence offense; that was in 1995. The NFL did not yield suspensions after a domestic violence conviction until 2000. And out of 48 players considered guilty of domestic violence under the league policy between 2000-2014, the league suspended players for one game or not at all in 88% of the cases. (espn.go.com) WOW!!! That is absolutely amazing to me when I look at these numbers. The league has harsher punishments for substance abuse and performance-enhancing drugs than for physical violence against women!
I recently watched an interview with Thomas Jones, a former NFL running back, and he spoke about how hard it is for football players to shut off the aggression once they leave the field. He said they are taught and coached to be in “kill” mode but they don’t teach them how to turn it off. He also talked about how the effect of concussions, which go unreported in so many cases, also contributes to a football player’s mood swing, mental disorders, memory loss and their inability to connect normally to certain things. This is why he is choosing to work with an institute by donating his brain for extensive concussion studies. These players obviously need more than just million dollar contracts, game suspensions and fines. They need a program in place to help them with anger management, and conflict resolution management. They need to have some of these special privileges as Pro athletes taken away so they can gain a better perspective on their position and life. I feel that if we don’t catch these traits early with our younger generation of athletes we will be dealing with more and more of issues with violence and crime rates in sports. The feeling is that most elite athletes feel entitled and don’t see anything wrong with some of their behaviors! Parents, coaches, and brands enable that behavior by making them super stars before they are 12yrs old.
It’s not okay!!!!! I still feel that Greg Hardy should not be back on the NFL field, and Ray Rice should have received a harsher punishment. These guys should feel humbled and find it a privilege to play professional sports and use that platform to create more opportunities for generations to come. Whether they want to be or not many of them are role models for kids. It kills me that these are the guys we place on pedestals and worship. These are the guys we spend hard earned money to buy their jerseys and mimic their chants, slang, and pop culture lifestyles. Johnny Manziel is another who seems to feel he is above the law in regards to domestic violence, it’s not okay!!! It wasn’t okay in 1995 and it certainly isn’t today in 2015. The NFL is only concerned with its image, it doesn’t care about cancer awareness month just because they have the pink ribbon, and they sure don’t care about domestic violence or its players. The football players from Vanderbilt who were convicted of rape need to know this isn’t okay!
Our society as it is today is headed toward a path of no return. WE NEED TO WAKE UP!!! WE need change, real change. WE need to stop being so MONEY HUNGRY AND ACCOLADE DRIVEN and embrace humility, respect, accountability and responsibility.
When is enough enough?
1. ^ https//en.m.wilkipedia.org/wiki/violence_in_sports, violence in sports
2. ^ Alfred University: news: NCAA sports survey. Retrieved October 2015
3. ^^ www.uscollegesearch.org/blog//resource-articles/criminal-justice-info/crime-rates-in-pro-sports. April 4, 2011