In 1993, a media frenzy erupted over claims that Super Bowl Sunday was the biggest day of the year for domestic violence against women. The claims stemmed from a press conference held by women’s groups in California, where one presenter cited a study from Old Dominion University several years earlier claiming reports of beatings and hospital admissions rose 40 percent in Virginia after games won by the Redskins during the 1988-89 season.
So startling was the claim that NBC, which aired the 1993 Super Bowl, ran a public service announcement about domestic violence before the game aired. Television networks and the Associated Press referred to Super Bowl Sunday as a “day of dread” for women. Reporters were citing a number of university studies claiming a link between football and domestic violence.
Years later, a reporter from the Washington Post debunked those claims.
In a Jan. 31, 1993, article, journalist Ken Ringle found that not only were the findings of the Old Dominion study misrepresented, but experts on domestic violence were saying that there was no data available to suggest a rise in domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday. Old Dominion study author Janet Katz did find a slight rise in hospital admissions for women on days in which the Redskins won. But it was not a 40 percent jump, and the findings were tentative, she said.
Regardless of whether Super Bowl Sunday is a more violent day for women, domestic violence is not acceptable on any day of the year. The sad reality is that many women live in fear of their spouses and partners every day, and it does not take the outcome of a football game to increase the likelihood of being beaten or demoralized.
Yet there is something that should be at least said about domestic violence and professional athletes. In December, Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and infant daughter before committing suicide in front of his coach and general manager. Here in North Carolina, former Charlotte Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth was convicted and imprisoned for plotting the murder of his girlfriend and their unborn child in 2001. And many people will recall football legend O.J. Simpson riding in a White Bronco on Los Angeles highways after being accused of brutally murdering his ex-wife Nicole in 1994, though he was later acquitted.
Whether any of those deaths can be linked in any way to football is unknown. There have also been claims of links between steroid use and domestic violence among America’s athletes, too.
Does that mean women should “remain alone with him during the game,” as one public relations firm advised in a flier during the 1993 Super Bowl firestorm? While it is certainly good to encourage victims to clear out at times that they feel most in danger, they would be better advised to leave no matter what day it is.
Leaving is scary on many levels, particularly if victims are financially dependent on their abusers. Despite their doubts, victims can get help from the legal system. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.
The Raleigh, N.C., law firm of Charles Ullman & Associates is committed to helping victims of domestic violence – male or female – to obtain protection from their abusers. If that describes you, please contact us by using this form or calling toll-free for a confidential consultation.