Sports Editor Dustin Brown and Fashion Editor Money Jensen will be looking at the ugly side of sports in a four-part series titled “Sports: A Disastrous Reality.” Part one explores the issue of domestic violence and how many professional leagues treat it as if it isn’t an issue. All views expressed in this series are those of the author and not that of Salute Magazine and its other writers.
The United States has always been a country that has thrived and lived for sports entertainment. Over the years, we have elevated many of our favorite sports athletes to an almost god-like level. In our ultra-masculine, ultra-aggressive culture, sports like football, basketball, baseball and hockey take ordinary men and women, catapulting them into the spotlight. These men and women help to shape so much of our culture. But when these men, and sometimes women, take their aggressive nature and turn it toward their loved ones, many turn a blind eye to what has become a dire problem in American culture — domestic violence.
According to the CDC, one in four women (22.3%) and one in seven men (14.0%) over the age of 18 in the United States have been victim to intimate partner violence; whether it be stalking, physical abuse or sexual violence. These statistics should be alarming, but sadly they are very common. So common, that even the most successful Americans who are also professional athletes find themselves exhibiting the same behaviors.
In that past few years, there have been many instances of domestic violence, most notably in football. The most famous of these cases was with the Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice being caught on tape punching and dragging his fiancée (now wife) out of a hotel elevator. Initially, before the tape was publicly leaked, Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games after viewing the tape himself. But, when the tape was leaked to the public by TMZ, the outrage from the masses forced the NFL’s hand and they suspended Rice indefinitely. He was reinstated in 2014 after an appeal but has yet to be signed by a team.
In a rare occurrence, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team has their own domestic abuse case under investigation. Star goalkeeper Hope Solo was charged with two counts of domestic violence in 2014 for assaulting someone at the home of her half-sister Teresa Obert. The charges were initially dropped but later prosecutors decided to appeal the ruling, and the case is still ongoing.
In Major League Baseball, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Reyes and Yasiel Puig are all currently under investigation by the league for domestic violence. In all three cases, the MLB is still investigating, and according to Fox Sports, the league is set to make a decision on punishment no later than March 1 of this year. The most serious of these three cases being Chapman, who fired eight gunshots in his garage after an argument with his girlfriend in October.
In the world of basketball, the NBA is just as affected by domestic violence as MLB and the NFL. Former Charlotte Hornets player Jeff Taylor was charged with domestic abuse and assault and battery charges after shoving his girlfriend and attacking a hotel employee in 2014. Taylor plead guilty to domestic abuse, but the charges for assault and battery were dropped. He was suspended for 24 games and has since been let go by the Hornets.
The ice rinks of the NHL are far from a haven either. Slava Voynov of the L.A. Kings plead no contest in 2015 to felony domestic violence charges against his wife and spent 90 days in jail. Voynov has suffered a prolonged suspension from the NHL as well.
Each of these leagues has their domestic violence policies, but it seems the players are not stressed about the importance of these matters. In the NHL, the players have said they are mandated to watch a 10-minute video about domestic violence during training camp, but players are “more concerned with other things” that many of them don’t pay attention. As sad as it may be, this is a trend, not only in sports, but general society.
It has happened to many of us, whether we are out on the town, in the grocery store, or maybe in our neighborhoods. A couple gets into an altercation, maybe someone grabs the other person, gets in their face, or even flat-out assaults them, there are those who think it isn’t their business and do nothing to help, or take action and step in.
In the case of sports, we have to highlight how to intervene, but also, we must emphasize teaching the importance of walking away and controlling anger. There is no secret that many players in different sports use enhancement drugs, or even prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances which can drive adverse behavior. Many programs focus on these problems but overlook the domestic situations that can result from this behavior.
After the Ray Rice scandal, the NFL took a comprehensive step in the right direction. The league is featuring players who have been personally affected by domestic violence in their lives (as victims), like Pittsburgh Steelers Willie Gay, who lost his mother to domestic violence. Doing so is a significant step forward for the organization that should be implemented by the MLB, and NHL as well. Making a community effort to change what is accepted, what is normal in the locker rooms and lives of these players will ultimately save these players, their organizations and, most importantly, their families a lot of pain.
More importantly, showing the fans of these sports that the players are actively fighting against domestic abuse within their teams, may be just the push our society needs to combat the ongoing trend of domestic abuse.