Great article by Jeff Benedict – A double standard when it comes to athletes and domestic violence. This could also be called: Why do athletes believe heavyweights can fight lightweights? Because that’s what I’d like to know.
It’s pretty sobering to visualize a big muscular athlete knocking down a woman or pummeling a grandfather. Against the sheer violence involved in each of these cases, it’s easy to overlook the fact that each of these incidents played out in front of plenty of witnesses. Typically, domestic violence is the kind of crime that goes on behind closed doors, where bullies carry out threats and violence without fear of being seen or caught.
But athletes are less prone to fear consequences, especially when it comes to their off-the-field behavior. Fields confronted his ex-girlfriend outside a child care facility at 5 o’clock on a Monday afternoon. Rodriguez couldn’t have picked a more public place to berate his girlfriend and strike her father than at a ballpark, never mind the fact that there were security guards on hand.
Most of us would consider this behavior pretty brazen. Yet athletes who run afoul of the law are used to getting out of jams. Look at Stephenson. While starring at Abraham Lincoln High in Coney Island Stephenson and a teammate were arrested in October 2008 for allegedly sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl inside the school. At the time, Stephenson was being recruited by schools like North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, USC and many others. He was on his way to becoming the all-time leading scorer in New York state history and leading his team to four consecutive New York City championships. He’d become such a big phenomenon that a courtside announcer had nicknamed him “Born Ready” and a reality web series about him was being planned under the same name.
All of that was jeopardized by the felony sexual assault case pending against him. But here’s where it pays for an abuser to be an athlete. After Stephenson pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, the University of Cincinnati offered him a scholarship. He became the Big East’s Rookie of the Year in 2010 and was selected drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the second round of June’s NBA Draft. It was as if the incident at his high school didn’t matter.
Jeff Benedict is a distinguished Professor of English at Southern Virginia University and the author of several books on athletes and violence, including Out of Bounds and Pros and Cons. Check out his website at jeffbenedict.com.