Domestic violence and sexual abuse incidents involving professional athletes are regularly covered in the media. Domestic abuse is the most common felony among professional football players, accounting for 55 percent of all charges (Giovannone, 2021). According to statistics, 134 athletes have been charged with domestic violence, and 15 have been charged with sexual assault, abuse, or harassment since 2000, accounting for 13 percent of all football league convictions (Giovannone, 2021). Considering the fame of many sports players, their actions have negative consequences not only on their personal lives, the brands they work with, and leagues but the young audience that seeks to become like their role models.
The history of domestic abuse and sexual assaults on famous athletes has a long history. Before the 1970s, there was an unofficial policy that nobody could discuss the athletes’ personal lives off the field (Penn Today, 2021). However, according to Wyner, head of the undergraduate department in statistics at the Wharton School, it started to crumble in the 1970s (Penn Today, 2021). The book Ball Four, released in 1970, disregarded the guidelines. The publication highlighted baseball stars’ misdemeanors, transgressions, and addictions (Penn Today, 2021). It was momentous since it signaled a shift in the perception of the sports stars.
Now, more incidents have started to gain a lot of media attention. For example, Alexander Zverev, a German tennis player, was one of the players featured in the US Open in 2021 and was ranked fourth (Penn Today, 2021). However, two years before, Zverev’s partner, Olya Sharypova, directly accused the player of domestic violence, which involved verbal and physical mistreatment (Penn Today, 2021). The woman shared her experience with the expectation that it would serve as a caution to those in abusive relationships and in hopes that the Association of Tennis Professionals would take action (Penn Today, 2021). However, the star’s reputation was not affected, and during the US Open event, Zverev was chosen to be the Rolex ambassador alongside other famous players (Penn Today, 2021). When the brand named Zverev their ambassador, several individuals expressed anger and even disgust on Twitter, but the comments did not receive much support.
However, domestic violence is a problem not only in the tennis league. It is the most prevalent issue in the National Football League. Domestic abuse cases of the biggest notoriety include the arrest in 1995 of player Warren Moon for domestic battery (Coyne, 2017). It was typical for athletes to be detained, but there was a slew of occurrences that went unreported (Coyne, 2017). Former professional football Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was more concerned with working on the projects than with the athletes’ off-field activities (Coyne, 2017). Roger Goodell considered it a personal challenge when he became chief to restore the image of the league and maintain a good reputation.
Hence, it can be seen that domestic violence and sexual assaults in the sports field, in the majority of cases, go unnoticed. However, sports stars are idolized by fans who pay great attention to their behavior and actions. In this case, role models may have a significant impact on how fans feel about a club or league and encourage emulation of the same attitude. Although every sports league holds a status in the entertainment business, each league’s and athlete’s societal significance owes it to the community to do more to eradicate domestic abuse and promote appropriate behavior.
Coyne, J. (2017). Domestic violence in the National Football League. Sport Management Undergraduate.
Giovannone, L. (2021). The prevalence of domestic violence in the NFL. The Charger Bulletin. Web.
Penn Today. (2021). The business of sports reckons with domestic violence off the field. Web.