Proposed Legislation Asks Athletes to Fight Domestic Violence: NCAA, Others Worried about Stigma Associated with Sports Figures

Article excerpt

Two members of Congress have proposed legislation

that calls for a national campaign against domestic

violence that would be spearheaded by athletes. But

some sports organizations, including the National

Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), believe the

legislation unfairly suggests athletes have a propensity

to engage in violence against women.

The legislation by Congresswoman Connie Morella

(R-Md.) and Congressman Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) also

calls for a national summit and a multifaceted strategy

involving professional and amateur sports organizations

in combating domestic violence and sexual assaults. Part

of the strategy would include counseling for athletes,

strong disciplinary action when needed, and a public

education and advertising campaign.

"Sports play such an important, positive role in our

society and in the education of our children. Its stars are

our children's heroes and role models and our national

icons," Morella said, explaining her reason for

introducing the legislation. But, she added, the media is

constantly full of reports of athletes accused of

domestic violence.

"Just as athletes have taken a strong stand in

fighting drug and alcohol abuse," she said, "isn't it time

for them to step up to the plate and take a strong stand

on violence against women?"

Sanders, using similar reasoning, explained, "This

legislation addresses three realities of American society:

one, that we have an epidemic of domestic violence;

two, that America, for better or worse, has a fascination

with sports, from the Olympics to the Super Bowl to

the Final Four; [and] three, that professional and

collegiate athletes are viewed as sports heroes by

America's youth.

"Sports leaders, as role models, are often emulated

both on and off the field, and we are asking that our

national and collegiate sports leaders make it a top

priority to help publicly condemn domestic violence

and sexual assault and join us in a national awareness

campaign," Sanders continued. "As role

models, these sports leaders

can send a strong message that

rough and tumble, hard-nosed

competitions stops when

players leave the field and that

there is no excuse for domestic

violence."

According to the two

representatives, domestic

violence is the leading cause of

injury to women and is more

common than car accidents,

muggings and rapes combined.

It is the top reason women go

to emergency rooms. Almost

4,000 women die each year of

domestic violence, which cuts

across all racial and economic

groups.

While no one wishes to

minimize the seriousness of

domestic violence, some

sports organizations are urging

caution.

The National Football

League expressed a

commitment to solve the

societal problem of domestic

abuse and sexual assault in

America, but said it is a problem

endemic to all parts of American society,

"including--but not exclusive--to sports."

A statement by a league spokesman continued, "We

do not believe that there is an empirical or other basis

for singling out athletes--professional or amateur--for

targeted treatment with respect to these issues. Among

other things, to single out athletes unfairly stigmatizes them by inevitably

suggesting that they have a particular propensity to

engage in such behavior when there is no basis for such

implication."

An NCAA official took an even bolder position,

suggesting that linking sports and violence may have

racial connotations. …