Pro Athletes and Domestic Violence

Scott GollContributor IDecember 31, 2008

The recent allegations and videotape that appears to show Brian Giles physically harming his then-girlfriend is yet another in an exceedingly long line of publicized incidents involving pro athletes and their significant others.

Even in general, I have a hard enough time comprehending how one human being can treat another in that way. Male versus male—while not condonable—is at least, in theory, an even match. It shouldn't happen, but at least you're picking on "someone your own size," so to speak.

Any man, smacking around any woman, I cannot fathom, justify or even think about without getting sick.

Yet, it's almost an afterthought when we see or read about it buried in the sports pages. It doesn't live long in our psyche, especially if he goes on to hit a game-winning homer the next day—all is forgiven somehow.

Are these pro athletes just a cross-section of society that just happens to get noticed more than your average wife-beating miscreant in Nowhere, America?

Or is there a larger subsection among the athlete population?

I know of no formal studies, but I do have a theory.

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Sports, by nature—especially the professional kind—are occupations heavily based on aggression. Whatever the particular sport is, it is one where you must be driven, focused, ready to pounce on what you want, and stop at nothing to get it (or, prevent your opponent from thwarting you).

Kill or be killed. Hit them before they hit you. Or something to that effect.

Pro athletes, I theorize, are used to getting what they want. They get the attention. They get the money. To some extent, I believe there's a sense of entitlement.

So what happens when athletes, who are more predisposed to the me-first attitude, are in what is supposed to be a relationship of equals? If there's a difference of opinion, some of them impose their will. If their will is not accepted by their partner, then perhaps the frustration mounts to the point of becoming physical.

Now, I've never been a pro athlete, and I've never struck a woman, so for me to say where the anger and abuse stems from is only one man's thoughts and judgments from afar.

What I do know, however, is that professional sports needs to do a better job of stamping this putrid behavior out and make sure the world knows it is neither acceptable nor tolerated, whether you're a star, role player, or ticket-scanner.

I used to like Brian Giles the baseball player. While the allegations are just that—allegations—the likelihood is that they are true; they usually are.

I will continue to judge each player and incident on its own merits, but we know all too well most of the violence reported is not fabricated to extort money from the athlete. Naturally, Giles is contending it is about the money.

Maybe Giles is not the only person to blame in this relationship...maybe he is.

My goal is not to specifically vilify him, but to make a point.

If these violent athletes respect only their power, money and control over everything, then only one thing can be done to mitigate it: take it all away.

You beat your wife and harm your marriage, relationship, public perception and your team's image? You lose your job.

Not only that, you are indefinitely banned from the sport. When you return, it's mandated you receive less salary, etc.

Radical? Perhaps.

What would happen, though, if you or I did something evil in public (or in private) and your boss caught wind of it and saw it in the papers or on TV? Think corporate America is going to pat you on the back?

No, more than likely you're out on the street—especially in this economy—faster than you can say "So long, sucker."  Not only that, you're likely going to jail. The pro athletes and their money can often buy their way into probation or a short sentence, just by getting a high-priced lawyer.

The double standard for pro athletes and the law has lived on far too long.

Michael Vick's doing hard time for harming dogsm yet most of these domestic abusers get off with a slap on the wrist (and don't get me wrong: I like dogs and don't agree with dog fighting for one second). Vick's being punished because commerce was involved—the government didn't get their cut.

There's no money in wife-beating, so I guess that's alright somehow; no prosecution necessary.

Now I feel like beating something—that sound you hear is my head against the wall.

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