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Domestic violence in professional sports

Out of the four major sports leagues in the U.S.–MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL–all of them fail to clearly address rules or policies regarding domestic violence or assault. Since the rules are not clear, players do not know the potential consequences for committing such a crime, or if there even is a punishment.

Between the years of 2000 and 2013, eighty-four players were arrested and accused of domestic violence in the NFL alone and no player recieved more than a one-game suspension. NFL players who face charges are usually publicized the most, but the NFL not the only sports league that leaves culprits without consequences.

The NHL rarely gives suspensions for incidents that occur off the ice rink. In 2013, goaltender Semyon Varlamov, was charged for assaulting his girlfriend. According to the girlfriend, “[Varlamov] grabbed my hands and twisted me. When I tried to close the door to the room, he kicked me in the chest with his leg.” The charges were eventually dropped and Varlamov never faced disciplinary action. The public continuously asks themselves “if domestic violence is considered against the welfare of the league, why are there no consequences?”

With evidence available, it leaves people questioning why the charges were dropped against Varlamov. The first reason that comes to mind is his status. Varlamov was the youngest person to represent Russia in the 2010 Olympic Games and started in all of the 2014 Olympic Games. His talent would be a shame to waste, and he can’t play hockey in a jail cell. He was released without any consequences because prosecutors said they could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Slava Voynov, a Los Angeles Kings defenseman, was suspended from the NHL on October 20, 2014 because of domestic violence towards his wife who suffered bodily harms. He pleaded not guilty while his attorney is pushing for a quick trial. Voynov is still being paid during suspension and is allowed to use team facilities, but was caught practicing with the Kings which was forbidden by the NHL.  During this rare occasion, the NHL charged the Kings with $100,000.

Professional sports leagues fail to remind their players that it is a privilege to wear a uniform and participate rather than a right. More than one in four women have experienced domestic violence and more than one in six men have experienced it since the age of sixteen.

Similar to the NHL, NBA players are rarely dealing with disciplinary consequences, or suspension at the very least. Multiple NBA players, including Matt Barnes and DeAndre Liggins were charged with acts of domestic violence. The NBA failed to punish either players. Barnes is currently playing for the Los Angeles Clippers while Liggins is currently playing for the VTB United League.

With all evidence of domestic abuse available, it should be an easy decision to permanently suspend these players. If an employee working for a company was convicted of assault or domestic violence, they could potentially be fired. So why do professional athletes have more rights than the average citizen? Is it because they have the public following their actions, their high salary or that they are televised? Whatever the reason may be, it makes the average citizen inferior in the eyes of the law that one person does not face charges because of their title while others do.

If the average citizen is convicted of domestic violence, there are potential consequences: jail time, fines, a fifty-two week treatment class, restraining order, or loss of employment opportunities. Since domestic violence has been publicized more frequently, our society’s opinion on it has changed drastically. There have been laws enacted that specifically address domestic violence as the consequences of those who are convicted have gotten more serious.

Francisco Rodriguez,a former player for the New York Mets, was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend’s father. This case was highly publicized after Rodriguez was suspended for two games and was put on a disqualified list due to a hand injury resulting from the assault. After going to court, he pleaded guilty and returned to the Mets the following season. In September 2012, Rodriguez was arrested for violence upon his girlfriend. He never faced any disciplinary action from the MLB.

The sole reason for Rodriguez’s suspension was his hand injury, not for misbehaving.If the MLB were to instill disciplinary action towards domestic violence on any players who are convicted, the players would hopefully learn their lesson and not continue to act in that way. Since the MLB pressed no charges towards Rodriguez, he continued his acts of violence and eventually got arrested.

Domestic violence isn’t something that should be taken lightly. These professional athletes have faced little consequences for detrimental actions which should not be considered acceptable. Assault in professional sports is a reoccuring theme that is yet to be stopped.


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