Sports Law : Violence by Athletes Fans & Coaches

There is little doubt – for anyone who takes even the most cursory glance at human history – that mankind is a violent, competitive and dangerous species. Indeed, every news media on this planet caters to the perpetrators and spectators of violence, especially the violence of war, domestic violence, and violence in sports. The greater the evil, the greater the headlines.

We have a private theory that the world is this way because that is the way mankind wants it to be. If we wanted the world to be otherwise, we would change it, would we not? We certainly have had thousands of years to do it, but we have not done it. Violence persists in the world because we condone its presence.

The good, therefore, is not preferred per se over evil per se, but rather it is only the ultimate “victory” of good over evil which is actually desired. For this reason, violence and the presence of evil is a necessary condition for the triumph of good, and that is why evil is present in human society everywhere. It is an enemy to be vanquished, but not one to be totally eradicated.

Nevertheless, in spite of this duality of good and evil, human violence is a costly affair and great evil is costlier still. Civilized peoples thus have developed sensible outlets and forums for the aggression and evil resident in humans.

Chief among these substitutes is the Rule of Law, which, in our view, is a substitute for war and battle. People no longer take part in pistol duels, rather, they go to court to argue their case before an impartial judge, who functions like an umpire in sports.

Sports serve similarly to channel man’s warlike nature into bloodless adversary competition, guided by rules and judged by referees.

The problems begin when the civilized “chains that bind” prove too weak to hold in check the chained beasts of violence and evil, and when the thin civilized veneer of humanity is broken to reveal an inner animalistic reality ready to bash in the opponent’s skull.

What do we do then?

Sports Law is a specialized field of law
dealing with violence in sports and similar issues.
For an overview, see:

Cornell Law School LII – Wex – Sports Law

International Association of Sports Law (IASL, Olympia, Greece)

National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law
which publishes the Marquette Sports Law Review
and offers the Marquette Sports Law Program

There are many reports in the news recently about violence by players, hooliganism by spectators, and avoidable injuries in sports caused by unnecessary roughness. Sad examples of this are presented by the following cases:

the violence at the Miami – Florida International college football game (USA)
(see also the Sports Law Blog)

shoulder charges and violence in rugby (Australia & New Zealand),

racist behavior by spectators at a soccer game (Serbia)

racist behavior by players at a soccer game (Germany)

beatings and mistreatment of athletes by coaches (China)

hockey brawls (USA)

fights between athletes and fans (Brazil)

inducement to illegal and violent behavior by coaches (USA)

kidnappings and killings of officials, athletes, coaches and/or referees (Iraq)

alleged gang rape by athletes (USA)

the fractured skull of Chelsea goalkeeper and an injury to his substitute soccer goalkeeper (England)

head butt in soccer (France) and its commercial value and commercial exploitation (Italy)

The only long-term solution to the escalating violence in sports might be the application of stricter laws against undesired behavior.

We thus agree whole-heartedly, for example, with the French Parliament’s recent passage of a law which gives greater protection to referees in sports by imposing strict sanctions upon perpetrators of violence against referees.
See the article by Christian Châtelet at the UEFA for more details.

See also

Athletes should show respect on and off the field

Leadership cadre faces important choices after brawl by Bill Curry in a special to
In the context of the Miami-FIU brawl, Curry states that fight “participants” can be placed into four categories:

“1. Spontaneous….
2. Peacemakers….
3. The Serious Fighters….
4. The Lethal Few: The ones who ran into the fray looking for someone to maim, the ones who hit people in the back of the head, stomped faces, necks, groins and any other unprotected part of defenseless opponents. They should be out for at least one year, perhaps for life, depending on whether they were successful in ending another career, which was their obvious intent….”

We definitely agree with number four.

There is always a contrary view.
For a contrary view to safety in sports, see Beware The Risk Of Goalkeeping Nannying
by John Nicholson

Reason favors limiting violence in sports by law.
Experience indicates that violence in sports will tend to increase to pander to the primitive tastes of mass audiences. One need only view WWE and their modern gladiators.

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