Pro Athletes Play in Spite of Domestic Violence
Although most people would say that it’s important to hold perpetrators of domestic violence (DV) accountable for their actions, there is some disagreement as to what that means in practice. In the world of professional sports, does it mean an abuser’s actions will be tolerated so that their participation in their sport is unaffected? The truth is that in three out of four cases involving coaches or athletes, individuals were allowed to stay on the team following accusations, regardless of whether they were arrested, charged, or convicted. These aggressors have frightened and harmed wives, lovers, and girlfriends in every sport, from football and basketball to diving and skating, and everything in between.
The most prevalent form of gender-based violence that coaches and players are accused of is domestic violence. And 15 percent of accused individuals have multiple arrests for DV under their belts. The most high-profile abusers are certainly athletes, but coaches and staff, too, have often been employed for years following initial accusations of DV.
Team Policies Nonexistent or Ineffective
For teams across the country there are really no policies with the teeth needed to really impact the behavior of players and others. Coaches, players, and leagues can overrule mandated sanctions time and again, making such policies virtually meaningless.
Case in Point: The NFL
As one former female NFL executive put it, “Everything’s excused in the name of football.” It seems that it goes double for DV. Studies indicate that policies in existence related to DV are ineffective for the most part. A decade ago the NFL developed a procedure to deal with personal conduct that contained a required six-week ban that was automatically imposed following an initial violation. It was supposed to take effect whether a conviction ever resulted from the action or not. In spite of this policy, out of 18 players looking at domestic violence allegations, only two have been suspended from playing. Even those disciplined with a suspension wrangled the NFL Players Association into fighting the punishment, managing to get the suspensions cut to just four games.
What Would it Take?
Can any policy ever change the way the NFL and other sports organizations work in DV policies? The Brookings Institute concludes that the only thing that will ever reign in rampant DV in the sports world is legislation that organizations cannot choose to overlook or twist in order to allow aggressors to wriggle their way out of their consequences. It absolutely makes no sense for anyone who is invested in a successful athletic program to have the power to adjudicate and carry out penalties for criminal behavior in the world of sports.
At The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos, our Miami domestic violence attorneys know that domestic violence has real consequences to victims and their families. While we can’t create laws to address the way the sports world addresses DV, we can definitely have an impact on your safety. To discuss, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.