Domestic Violence and the NFL

This might seem hardly worth a blog post, but I think the reading audience might like to know about this.  Here is an article highlighting the ten percent rise in reports of domestic violence in cities under the circumstance of their NFL team losing. A study between 1995-2006 of six NFL teams- the Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans-showed an increase in reports of male violence toward their female home partners, within the narrow window of the last hour of the game to two hours after the game ended. I don’t think this can be taken to mean a whole lot about American sports and culture on its own, but when combined with other social phenomenon it has to say something about our culture’s obsession with violent entertainment, and its reproduction in viewers (though it might be interesting to see if other sports correlate with domestic violence, suggesting that it is not the violence of the sport that is influencing violence, but maybe the gambling going on or something else).

9 thoughts on “Domestic Violence and the NFL

  1. What’s weird about that is that is several of those teams were actually surprisingly competitive (either champions or runners up, or in the playoffs at least) during those years. Though I guess it doesn’t much matter when your team loses, when you’re physically abusive.

  2. In the UK we had this story from last year:

    “The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is warning of the threat of increased domestic violence during England’s World Cup campaign.
    Reports of domestic violence to England and Wales police forces increased by an average of 25% on England’s match days during the last World Cup in 2006.”

    Regarding the violence of the sport, in the UK the media typically compare behaviour of football fans and players to those of rugby. Rugby is much more of a contact sport, with similarities to the NFL, but it’s also considered a more middle class sport (a big favourite of the public schools) and doesn’t hold the entire country to ransom the way a high-profile football match does. (The class element obviously makes “You never see that on a rugby pitch/ in a rugby stadium” feel like an obnoxiously patronising statement at the best of times.)

    I wouldn’t expect to hear such a story repeated for the upcoming rugby union world cup, but whether that’s because there is actually no/minimal effect or because it won’t be reported is anyone’s guess.

    Certainly though, British rugby fans have never exhibited the same notorious behaviour of our football supporters, so it’s fair to say that it isn’t purely the violent form of the sport on display causing off-field incidents.

  3. What if sports are functional in our culture, at least in one significant way, in that they are sites of distraction from the fundamental injustices and inadequacies of American life? (Hardly a novel thought.) Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe domestic violence (and other horrors like “shaken baby syndrome”) are concentrated among the most disadvantaged and powerless of American society. Yet this is often where sports and sports identification are most “functional” in the sense described above. A team’s loss threatens to be more than a team’s loss—it removes the distraction, especially for men who long to feel in some way like “real men.” That is to say, Rob’s introduction of the class angle makes sense to me.

    However, there must be something going on with team sports. I doubt that domestic violence spikes when Jeff Gordon loses a NASCAR race, or when a favored boxer gets KO’d. I wonder if there’s something peculiar about team identification and these sorts of statistical spikes.

  4. Yes, Charlie, I think identification with the sport is bigger with team sports than something like NASCAR. The pointer to class is interesting, especially lower classes (one assumes), but it seems to need a combination of factors, especially since NASCAR fans are not typically higher class people (I am totally assuming, and could be wrong).

  5. Thomas, you should really step back and rethink that statement “NASCAR fans are not typically higher class people”
    I am a NASCAR fan although I am not a “stuffy Suit Highroller” I would not consider myself the “class” you mistake for being NASCAR fans, I do understand how you could come to you conclusion but I have seen Some very High Class People and extremely wealthy individuals at races, Participating as owners, Sponsers. I also would like to point out that these cars are extrememly expensive not only to do R&D on and build but to just for instance show up at the Daytona 500 to attempt to qualify for a starting position was stated to cost in the range of $150,000 to over $250,000 depending on teams and equipment on hand. I can guarantee if you were to do a census of a persons class ranking and their listing as a fan or not of NASCAR you would of course find your “class” you refer to but the majority would be much Higher then you expected, I know this due to the fact this sport could not continue to prosper and grow if it only had lower class fans due to the amount of money involved. the higher your class the higher your income is to spend on entertainment as such.

  6. Fair enough. I was assuming, and admitted I could be wrong. Of course I understand the expenses involved in any type of racing (particularly for those participating and sponsoring, though maybe less for the fans), and would assume car racing to be at the top. I suppose my inclination of class affiliation with NASCAR fandom would have less to do with money, though, and roe to do with stereotypes (though those stereotypes are unfair for sure).

  7. All guesswork again, but I suspect that the increase in domestic violence is connected with the fact that football (US=”soccer”) is a site for the practice of very traditional sexist masculine behaviour in a way that other sports aren’t (or not to the same extent). Seeing some of my very well-read and painstakingly considerate middle class male friends down the pub for a couple of hours with their legs wide open and a pint of beer in their hands, it’s as though football provides a temporary refuge from the Orthodox Guardian theology they follow at all other times in the week.

    It’s a sport characterised by a completely naturalised sexism and homophobia. In the UK, we still await the day when a current league player declares himself gay. There’s no will to tackle this from anyone involved in football. Which is strange because the racism that was endemic to the sport twenty years ago has disappeared, through a conscious and sustained effort, proving that the sport is capable of political self-consciousness and action.

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