Athletes and Domestic Abuse
It’s a touchy subject. It’s the subject that led me into researching Domestic Abuse and starting my brand ManEater. The first time I witnessed Domestic Abuse was between a star football player at the college I attended (Mississippi State) breaking down his girlfriend’s apartment building door and giving her a black eye. She was my friend, and I remember taking her to run errands the next day and she wore sunglasses and long sleeves to hide the bruises on her face and arms.
Previous to that I witnessed a football player punch a female soccer player at a party. In both situations there were no repercussions for the male athletes. Even though the administration knew, the coaches knew, the apartment complex knew. At the time of the party incident I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was. As I witnessed my friend continue to be abused my urge to fight situations and educate others about Domestic Violence grew.
So, is there any true link between Athletes and Violence Against Women? We can look at prime athletes who reached the peak of their game for example OJ Simpson or Floyd Mayweather, whose only defense claims are that there is no photo evidence, and that “Only God can judge me.” One went on trial for murdering his wife and got off scotch free, and the other has had multiple women speak about the abuse they endured while around him. But yet people still cheer for Floyd, people will still buy his products or attend his matches. So what about the women? The men clearly are able to sweep incidences like these under the rug, especially the ones with a fat paycheck, while the women are left with emotional scars that last longer than the bruises. With the media being what it is today, we are informed of the incidents that take place with athletes and significant others. We are given a peak into what happened, but sometimes we end up seeing the players back on the field, we see the accusers being chastised for coming forward and that they are gold diggers looking for their moment. In some cases that may be, in a lot of cases it isn’t. What message does this send to the young women of today? That if you are beat by a man of wealth and status that it doesn’t matter if you are telling the truth. People won’t believe you. We witness rape victims come forward weeks, months, or years after the incident and people ask them why they didn’t come forward sooner. Like it’s an easy thing to say, “I’ve been raped,” or “He hit me” knowing that he is a star, and she will face scrutiny no matter what. Nothing about these statements is easy.
When it comes to young men, especially in high school and college, why aren’t we educated them on healthy relationships? When it comes to the men that actually take the step to hit a woman and participate in a violent act against a woman, why aren’t we putting them in a class or counseling to reform their actions, to learn from their mistake? I understand people make mistakes. Anger and emotions take over and we don’t think. I don’t think someone should be punished forever, especially as a young man with a future in front of him. But why continue to let these type of people play and be praised for their ability to throw or catch a ball, when as humans themselves, they are missing a huge foundation of morality and stability. And instead of having to endure a program where they have to face what they’ve done they are forgetting about their mistake because they are “the man.”
Ohio State football head coach Urban Meyer was put on paid leave after reports surfaced that he knew of his assistant’s domestic-abuse allegations. And while Urban Meyer may not have actually participated in the abuse he was a leader of the university, a leader to the young men on his team, so he was rightfully punished. But the true stars on the field and in the ring, outside of Ray Rice who while was suspended indefinitely from the NFL but still got mentioned in the freestyle rap song by Eminem as well as a few others, or Ezekial Elliot who was suspended for a majority of his season have yet to truly face punishment for their violent acts against the women they hurt.
Domestic Violence expert Deborah Epstein resigned from her position from the NFL Players Association Commission when after conducting a research study of player’s wives with her research psychologist Lisa Goodman led them to a troubling “pattern.” She brought many ideas to the commission about ways to deal with domestic violence, and its problem in the NFL but consistently saw these ideas shelved because of the super bowl, or the draft, or it was the season. She soon realized nothing was truly going to be done to change the system even if they had told her the ideas she thought should be implemented were “doable.” So what do we take away from this? That the NFL has put money before the health and lives of the women so closely linked to it.
In 2018 Vice released an article written by Britni De La Cruz on the topic called “Kareem Hunt and a Sports World that Ignores Domestic Violence Victims” and she couldn’t have stated it better herself. “The athlete matters more than his victim because the athlete provides on-the-field value for the teams. The women are just headaches who are causing PR crises; they are an inconvenience, their pain is hypothetical.” The woman Kareem Hunt assaulted stated, “The way I was treated and the way he made me feel about myself, tore me down to nothing, it took me months for the night terrors to stop, to not have panic attacks 3 times a week, to look in the mirror and not feel worthless.” So I may ask, how many women have to be treated this way, have to feel this way about themselves because of a man who can’t control his actions before we truly step in and change the way the sports world works when it comes to domestic violence?
And it isn’t just the athletes. Studies show when it comes to sports audiences from different countries; incidents of domestic violence appear to increase during games. At Lancaster University, domestic violence calls rose by 26% on days when the English national team played in the World Cup in 2002, 2008, and 2012. But when they lost calls increased by 38%.
The real issue isn’t sports. The real issue is abusive and violent partners. Domestic Violence is a choice. And in a day in age where we see more women stepping forward, more women standing up for one another, why is it so hard to find men in power that will do the same thing. Do the right thing?