Athletes and Domestic Violence

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Athletes and Domestic Violence

A lady calls 911 and cries that her husband is beating her. She wants to file a report, but then asks the dispatcher if it is going to be in the paper the next day. When the dispatcher doesn't reply, she changes her mind about the report and hangs up (Cart). The lady was Sun Bonds, wife of all-star San Francisco Giant, Barry Bonds. Like the wives of other famous players, she was a victim of spousal abuse. Athletes are praised as heroes for what they do on the playing field, but what they do off the field is never mentioned. As a disappointed sports fan, I want to draw attention to the domestic violence cases that involve athletes.

Athletes have been abusing their spouses since sports were created, but not until the OJ Simpson trial has domestic violence become "the issue du jour." When Simpson was arrested on New Years Day for beating his wife, none of the newspapers reported it. When he pleaded no contest five months later, there was a small brief in the second page of The Los Angeles Times' Metro Section (Cart). In the last three years alone the list of the accused included Dante Bichette, Barry Bonds, John Daly, Scottie Pippen, Jose Conseco, Bobby Cox, Mike Tyson, Warren Moon, Michael Cooper, Darryl Strawberry, Duane Causwell, Olden Polynice, Robert Parish, and OJ Simpson( Callahan, Sports Ilustrated). And these are only the pro athletes whose wives had the courage to report the violence.

Madeline Popa, president of Nebraska National Organization for Women stated, "Athletes are role models to small children. [Viewers] worry about the violence on television, but generally that is make- believe. When [there are] real-life heroes [engaging in violence], the message to young boys and girls is, 'If you are a star athlete you can get away with things (qtd in L.A. Times).'"

There is an act of domestic violence every eighteen seconds in the United States. One in every three women will experience it, according to a study done by The L.A. Times. Abuse is the number one cause of injury for women. About six million women are abused each year; four thousand are killed (Cart). Although the sports world is not involved with all of these statistics, they are an important factor as to why the numbers are so high. The survey found that in 1995 there were 252 incidents involving 345 active sports players.

Another survey done by Sports Illustrated reveals that eight to twelve women a year are assaulted by their partners. More women die from abuse than from car accidents and muggings combined. A study done by the University of Massachusetts and Northeastern University revealed that out of 107 cases of sexual assault reported in various universities, most of them involved male student-athletes although they only make up 3.3% of the total male body (Callahan). This means that male student-athletes were six times more involved than males who were not student-athletes.

Despite these studies some people believe that sports does not have a problem with the issue of domestic violence. Richard Lapchick, director of the Center on the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University believes, "These exaggerations [in studies] do not discount that there is solid evidence of a problem in sport" and "Athletes are not necessarily more prone to domestic violence than others (quoted from The L.A. Times and Sports Illustrated)."

Marriah Burton Nelson, author of The Stronger Women Get, The More Men Like Football: Sexism and the American Culture of Sports, is one of the many people who disagree with Lapchick. She believes that sports create an aggression found in men who beat their wives. She says,

It is not the sport themselves, but the culture of the sports in which male athlete and coaches talk about women with contempt. The culture of sports is a breeding ground. It begins with the little league coach saying, 'you throw like a girl.' This teaches boys to feel superior. Masculinity is...
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