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Violence in Sports

Steeler running back Rocky Bleier, whose wartime experiences, not so oddly, offer some insights. To Bleier, there are interesting parallels between survival in war and survival in the NFL. ‘The experiences with war injuries and football injuries are quite the same,’ he said.” (Casay) The injuries that are accumulated during sports are rapidly increasing to the point that there are injured players on every team in each game that is played. This is especially true in the most physical professional sports, i.e., NFL and the NHL. Most of these injuries are directly related to the increasingly violent nature of pro athletes. “`The cost of the aggression — the punishment — has to be greater than the benefits,’ said Dr Brenda Bredemeier, sports psychology consultant at the University of California-Berkley.

The latest outbreak of violence occurred in Bredemeier’s back yard, Oakland, where (Latrell) Sprewell attacked Coach P.J. Carlesimo during practise and, according to published reports, threatened to kill him if he wasn’t traded.”(Detroit Press) Pro athletes are committing criminal acts and the law for the most part is letting them get away with crimes. Another case of violence by a pro athlete happened recently. Ray Lewis was initially charged with murder along with two of his friends for an altercation that happened in Atlanta after the Superbowl on January 31, 2000. The three men got into a fight with two other men and killed them. “Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner sentenced Lewis to 12 months probation, the maximum sentence for a first-time offender.”(CNNSI)

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This case made me think to myself, “Would a man facing murder charges with two of his friends be able to walk a free man with no jail time at all and still be accepted by society?” Pro athletes receive star status by the public and the media, encouraging law enforcement officials to look the other way whenever they break the law. Our judicial system in turn hands out less severe penalties for criminal offences committed by pro athletes than the average criminal offender. Violence in professional sports is seen in the actions of one player against another but is now rapidly increasing outside of the games to where the players are now being deemed as criminals as well as athletes and tarnishes their image as role models to kids.

Athletes in pro sports are paid outrageous amounts to play, which gives them more incentive to be violent. Some argue that athletes deserve these wages. These enormous amounts of money that pro athletes are making are ridiculous. “The average earned income in major league baseball is over $800,000 a season”(Fizel, 83), and some of these players just sit the bench all year. These high salaries are beneficial in making the athletes more violent. How is it fair that a man that can hit a ball four hundred feet to send a baseball out of the park make $30 million a season? Barry Bonds is truly a great athlete, but to be paid that much he should be able to hit home runs with his eyes closed. Michael Jordan is the greatest man to ever walk across the hardwood floors of professional basketball, but to be paid $63 million in one season is almost sickening. Football players aren’t any better but are a little different when it comes to why they are paid so much.

They have a lot more at stake when they go out on to the field to do battle. They have to consider the possibility of getting injured at any time because of the violent nature of the sport. They are paid to be big, mean, fast, and ruthless out on the field against men just as big and ruthless as themselves. Kevin Green, a defensive linebacker said “ It is true that we are getting paid an outrageous amount for what we do out on the turf, but we are the most likely to get hurt in all professional sports. We want to make sure we get what we need before we get out of the league.”(O’Hara, 12) That is the typical mindset of pro football players. The signification of the relation between violence in pro sports and the money the athletes make is summed up in this quote: “The economic incentive to win forces players to develop a win at all cost attitude. Players no longer play simply for the love of the game, but rather play for the tremendous amount of wealth that can be attained by winning.” (Rowe) The fans of professional sports are expecting more from the players, and when they feel that the performance from their team is inadequate, they get violent. Most people know of the incidents that occur from European and South American soccer games.

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The fans of these soccer games have fights regularly over arguments that are provoked by one team winning and one team losing. There have also been cases as extreme as death for another fan or even a player. “…on May 29, 1985, when two fans turned an argument into a full-scale riot, as the Italian fans tried to storm the English stands in the process they knocked down a cement wall killing 39 people. As a result of this, some teams had to ban their own fans from attending the home games.”(Hazleton) Violent fans happen in any sport, not just soccer. The National Hockey League (NHL) had an unfortunate event in the early 1990s. “Take, for example, the Montreal Canadians, who had just won the National Hockey League championship after their June 7 Stanley Cup final victory over the Los Angles Kings. Almost immediately after the game, a rampage started in the streets of Montreal. For over two hours, people were turning over cars, setting fires, and smashing store windows with big stones. The damage was estimated at about $10 million.”(McGurgan) Drinking is an activity that provokes fans to act in a violent nature.

There is a new crackdown on drinking at Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. They have beefed up security to keep people in the cheap seats from moving into the lower box seats. “Season-ticket holders will be responsible for the actions of anyone using their seats. But the biggest changes are in beer sales. The Cubs will reduce the number of beer vendors by 10 per cent; make them stop selling in the middle of the sixth inning, a half-inning earlier than before, and allow vendors to stock up only halfway for their final trip through the stands. It is all, as the letter says, because ‘the poor decision of one fan resulted in an event that was embarrassing for all of us.’”(Chicago Times) The incident that the reporter was talking about was that of a Chicago Cub fan that took the hat from Chad Kreuter when his Los Angeles Dodger’s were playing against the Cubs. “Ron Camacho, one of three men arrested for disorderly conduct during last week’s fight at the Cubs-Dodgers game, has filed a lawsuit against both teams seeking more than $400,000. Chad Kreuter and other Dodgers jumped into the seats and “strangled, punched, slapped, pushed and kicked Mr Camacho,” the suit says, injuring his neck, arms, torso and face and causing him ‘severe pain and suffering and emotional distress.’”(Chicago Times) This event may or may not have been prevented by the selling of alcoholic beverages, but it does portray the violent nature of the pro athletes and the fans of pro sports. These crazed fans need to stop their violent nature before more people are injured and killed. Society has a lasting effect on how professional sports should be played, and the general attitude is the acceptance of violence because pro sports generate too much money to do without it. Violence and pro sports have coexisted for a long time.

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Violence occurs by the athletes while they are playing their sport and off the field as well. One such incident on the field occurred in the NFL in 1977. The Cincinnati Bengals were playing the Denver Broncos, and a player from Denver struck a player from Cincinnati in the back of the neck. “Mr Hackbart later felt great pain and, after seeing a doctor, learned that he had a serious neck fracture. In Hackbart vs. Cincinnati, the trial court ruled that intentional injuries incurred during a game should be outside the framework of the law.”(Rowe) With the increase in society taking a stand against violence, pro sports have become an area where some feel that the violent acts such as the hitting and fighting that occurs should be eliminated. Most people in our society, however, believe that you cannot change something that has been around for so long because it would change the aspect of the game to something completely different. The reasons that violence is occurring in sports are due to six theories according to John Schneider. “The violence in sport mirrors the violence found in society, violence as the result of economic incentives, the influence of crowd behaviour on player violence, genetic causation for player aggression, learning theory and player aggression, and psychological stress and player violence” (Lapchick 230).

The theories of sport mirroring society, violence as a result of economic incentive, and the influence of crowd behaviour are the theories that I feel are responsible for the increasing violence in sports. In events such as hockey games, where people are expected to hit and make body contact, sooner or later a fight will break out and the fans will yell and scream for their favourite player involved. If people around us are applauding us for a certain act we have done, we will try to do it over so that we will continue to be praised. In sports, there are some players whose only role on the team is to protect and enforce the unwritten rules of the game such as in hockey where it is not right to fight or hit a Wayne Gretzky type of star player. His economic incentive is to protect the team and if he does not, a new line of work might be in the future.

All three of those theories relate closely to the role of the fighter in the sport and why it is that he does commit acts of violence. When the NFL or the NHL are asked to try and remove the violence from their sport, they are hesitant because it is not what the fans want. “Bryant and Zillman report that television viewers enjoy NFL plays more when they are rough and violent” (McPherson 294). We tolerate it and we bring it under disciplinary control, which we believe satisfies the public (Snyder 201). A part of society that should hold a lot of the blame for this acceptance of violence in pro sports is the media. Whenever “Sportscenter” comes on ESPN it always glorifies an act of violence such as the “hit of the night” or repeats of some type of fight whether it be in hockey, boxing or a bench-clearing brawl in baseball.

When you can only fit approximately “17,000 people” into a Las Vegas boxing arena, the money is not made at the gate (Lunney 39). The general consensus is that sports violence is reflective of the violence that happens in our society. Professional athletes have a tremendous amount of determination and competitiveness about them that is rarely seen anywhere else, but they are becoming less and less of role models because of their violent nature while they are playing their sport and the crimes that are being committed away from the sport. The high salaries, the involvement of fans, and society are three theories as to why athletes are prone to act in such a violent way. The high salaries that athletes make are what drives them to violently play their sport because they are rewarded most of the time for this style of play.

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The fans of professional sports cheer on their teams, especially when they see a player or players get injured from the opponents’ team. Society has come to accept the fact that violence in pro sports will never decrease because of the revenue that is involved in the games. These facts are all sad but true, and the people in our society that are going to suffer the most from the violence are the kids. Since most pro athletes are deemed as role models, kids who see them on TV are going to think that their actions are okay to follow by, regardless if it is a basketball player throwing a punch or a baseball player charging the pitcher. Pro athletes, fans, and society need to evaluate themselves and try to make a change for the better that decreases violence.


1. SIRS on CD-ROM Lapchick, R. “Fanship and the Television Sports Viewing Experience.” Sociology of Sport Journal (Lexington, MA) 16 May 1986 SIRS CD-ROM McPherson, B.D. “The Social Significance of Sport.” 21 August 1989 SIRS CD-ROM Snyder, E.E. “Social Aspects of Sport.” Prentice-Hall Inc. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.) 11 February 1983 SIRS CD-ROM Fizel, John. “Baseball Economics.” Prager Publishing, Inc. (Westpoint, London) 24 July 1996 SIRS CD-ROM 2. A source from the Detroit News: O’Hara, Mike. “Football: Cap and Salaries will rise with new TV deals.” The Detroit Press (Detroit, MI) 15 Sept. 1998. Online. Available: Kupelian, Vartan. “Violence in sports: Sprewell latest in a disturbing trend.” The Detroit News (Detroit, MI) 3 Dec. 1997. Online. Available: 3. Material on the World Wide Web: Associated Press. “Lewis Murder Charges Dropped.” CNN-SI 5 June 2000 McGurgan, Jennifer. “Violence Moves Onto Field.” 5 April 1995 Casey, Josh. “Ouch! America’s Favorite Pastimes and Violence.” Rowe, Michael A. “The Legal Ramifications of Violence in Professional Sports.” Ford Marrin Esposito Witmeyer & Gleser, L.L.P. (Wall Street Plaza, NY) 4. Periodical information on CD-ROM: Hazleton, Lesley. “British Soccer.” The New York Times Magazine May 7 1989: 67 SIRS CD-ROM Couch, Greg. “Wrigley Restricts Beer Sales.” Chicago Times (Chicago, IL) 26 May 2000. CD-ROM

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Violence in Sports. (2021, Mar 11). Retrieved March 24, 2023, from