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Domestic Violence: What does it Mean for Athletes and Coaches?


No one would argue against the perpetrators of domestic violence (DV) being held accountable for their actions, right? But when it comes to the world of professional sports, what does accountability look like? Just like in all professions, there are known aggressors who frighten and harm and girlfriends, wives, and lovers in every sport, from football and baseball to skiing and ice-skating, and everything in between. Unbelievably, in about 75 percent of all DV cases involving coaches or athletes, the accused abusers have been permitted to stick around following DV accusations, regardless of whether they were arrested, charged, or convicted.

Violence Ignored 

The predominant form of gender-based violence of which coaches and players are accused is domestic violence.  And a substantial portion of aggressors–15 percent—are repeat offenders with multiple arrests for DV in their histories. Athletes are certainly the most notorious abusers, but coaches,  as well as little known  staff who have been involved in DV have been kept around for years following initial accusations in far too many cases.

NFL Policies Fail 

Research indicates that policies regarding this type of violent abusive conduct are fundamentally ineffectual.  A decade ago the NFL instituted a policy to deal with personal conduct which required a six-week ban that was automatically instituted following any initial violation. Whether or not a conviction resulted from the behavior, the ban was supposed to be implemented as a way to demonstrate that the NFL was serious about mitigating the impacts of domestic violence. Even so, only one in nine players accused of DV has suffered any game suspensions at all, and those who did requested help from the NFL Players Association to fight the suspensions. The result was a reduced penalty each time. One former female NFL executive summed it up like this: “Everything’s excused in the name of football.”

Policies in Other Sports 

Across the sports world, it seems, policies lack the teeth needed to really impact the behavior of players and others. Coaches, players, and leagues consistently have mandated sanctions overruled making policies against domestic violence effectively pointless across the board.

What Will it Take for Change?

It makes absolutely no sense for the people who are invested in a successful athletic program to have the power to arbitrate and carry out punishments for the criminal behavior of its members in the world of sports. The Brookings Institute concludes that only one thing will ever work to reign in widespread DV in the sports world: legislation. When laws are on the books, they won’t be so easily disregarded or distorted to allow aggressors to wheedle out of their sanctions.

Victims Deserve More 

At WiseLieberman, our Boca Raton family lawyers understand that domestic violence has significant consequences to victims and their families. While we can’t necessarily significantly impact the consequences to abusers in terms of their work, we can definitely have an impact on your safety.  To discuss, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.



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