Does Football Encourage Violence Against Women?
I recently read this blog about how women need to be more vigilant when they are dating and are also mothers which was sparked by the death of football player Adrian Peterson's son. It is true that dating mothers need to be extra cautious about the men they date, but I think there is a deeper issue that we need to address.
I do not know Adrian's Baby Mama. We have never met. I do not know anything about her. I am not discussing anything about that situation at all. I also do not know Adrian Peterson, nor had I ever heard of him before this tragedy hit the news. I am not a football fan. I did notice that the only thing I know about this woman who lost a child was who she had dated; one football player and one abusive man who killed her child. It made me wonder about who we as women are attracted to. I repeat, I am not saying Adrian Peterson is a violent man or an abuser. I am not saying the two men had anything in common. I just know from my experiences dating and watching my lifetime of various female friends date that a lot of women are attracted to Big, Strong, Tough, Scary Men, and I have also noticed that the an awful lot of the men in my life look up to Big, Tough, Fierce, Scary Men who play sports.
But the news story has my brain spinning about violence. Do aggressive sports like football and boxing encourage violence off the field? Why do some women seem to be attracted to violent men? Are we as a society rewarding the very behaviors we say we abhor?
Patrick Hruby wrote about the physical consequences of Super Bowl Sunday in his article, A Most Lethal Game.
Across the nation on Super Bowl Sunday, traffic accidents spike. Domestic violence goes up. People eat themselves sick, drink until their bladders are too full to urinate (trust us: more painful than it sounds), gag and choke on aluminum beer can tabs.
Can we deny that society rewards men who have characteristics of abusers? Men are lauded for being tough, strong, and coldly unemotional. Sensitive boys are made fun of and beat up on the playground. When we watch boxing, wrestling, or football, are we not encouraging the kind of behavior that leads to violence in the real world?
I found this article addressing violence on and off the field, which is an excerpt from a larger work entitled Social Issues in Sport-2nd Edition By Ron Woods.
Here are some quotes that struck me:
Sport may not be the cause of violence, but rather a result of the athletes’ upbringing or natural disposition, which led them to choose a violent sport.
So I wonder, do violent people gravitate towards violent sports, or do violent sports make people more violent? I kept reading:
Domestic violence is the number-one crime perpetrated by athletes (Benedict and Yaeger 1998).
I read some more:
A three-year study showed that while male student-athletes make up 3% of the population on college campuses, they account for 19% of sexual assaults and 35% of domestic assaults on college campuses.
- Athletes commit one in three college sexual assaults.
- The general population has a conviction rate of 80% for sexual assaults,
- while the rate for athletes is only 38%.
But, before you jump on the anti-athlete bandwagon, lets take a minute to think about the cart and horse again. If we look up to men who are fierce competitors with raw physical strength that hit hard on the field, if that is our definition of manhood, are we encouraging the very behavior that we later protest? And are the athletes merely the only ones getting caught? I came across this quote:
23% of the males in cities with a population of 250,000 or more are arrested for a serious crime at some point in their life. That compares with the 21.4% of NFL football players who had been arrested for something more serious than a minor crime as reported in Benedict’s earlier study (Benedict and Yaeger 1998). In fact, when Blumstein and Benedict compared NFL players with young men from similar racial backgrounds, they discovered that the arrest rates for NFL players were less than half that of the other group for crimes of domestic violence and nondomestic assaults.
and it was followed by:
Joyce Williams-Mitchell is the executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition of Battered Women’s Service Groups and an African American woman who hates the violent image of athletes. She says, “It is a myth! Most batterers are men who control women through their profession, and they include police officers, clergymen, dentists, and judges. Athletes get the headlines, though, and an unfair public rap. Men from every profession (regardless of race) have the potential to be batterers” (Lapchick 1999).
The article does not reach any conclusions about violence and sports, but rather purports that more research should be done.
My question is aimed towards society; when we make athletes the top of our social ladder, are we encouraging behaviors that lead to violence off the field? When we look at the icons of our generation, including movies and hit TV shows, how many of the male characters are the kind of person you would want your daughter to date? Is society complicit in the cycle of abuse? I do not know the answer. I am not a scientist. I am only a person with a lot of questions sparked by a sad occurrence.