Violence in sports

Violence in sports involves intentional aggressive violence. Competitive sports, such as football, basketball, and baseball may involve aggressive tactics, but actual violence in sports falls outside the boundaries of good sportsmanship. Contact sports such as American football, ice hockey, rugby union/league, boxing and wrestling involve certain levels of physical violence, but include restrictions and penalties for excessive and dangerous acts of force. Violence in sports may include threats, verbal abuse, or physical harm and may be carried out by athletes, coaches, fans, spectators, or the parents of young athletes.



"Intermittent explosive disorder" may be a cause of violence. Some athletes may be genetically predisposed to violence or (particularly in male athlete cases) have unusually high testosterone levels. Animal behaviour ethology studies may also lend a clue, as athletes may resort to violence to establish territory. For example, a 1920s National Hockey League incident involved Eddie Shore’s assertion of territorial dominance over newcomers Sprague Cleghorn and Billy Coutu; in retaliation, Coutu severed Shore’s ear.

In some sports, such as American football and ice hockey, traumatic brain injury, whose high incidence has only recently been realized, may also reduce players' emotional control. The National Football League and the National Hockey League now have procedures to facilitate the detection of concussion.

Previous rivalry feelings between two competitors might also induce violence during a sporting event; such is the case of WNBA basketball stars Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson: high school teammates, they were rivals for their team's starting role at the center position. Although they have had no major altercation, they have become close to fighting during some games between Leslie's Los Angeles Sparks and, in Thompson's case, the Houston Comets.

Tactical considerations

In ice hockey, violence is often a tactic. In particular a team's "enforcer" may protect a star player who is less physical by indimidating and hopefully deterring the opposing team's players from harassing the star. Recent rule changes in the NHL, however, have reduced the incidence of intimidation tactics, such as attacking a player without provocation.

Cultural Considerations

Although criminal justice authorities have historically avoided pressing charges against athletes, these authorities may also come from cultures where domestic violence was or is also tolerated under the guise of a social contract -- an unwritten agreement in an ongoing relationship. By pursuing athletes, officials may be seen as interfering in a social contract. It can be difficult to determine whether athletes invoke a social contract for violence each time they step on to the field, stadium or court. However, in some cultures, authorities have stepped in, such when police occasionally press charges in the National Hockey League.

Some sports psychologists and sports psychiatrists have expressed concerns about the impact on children. Media sometimes broadcast unfiltered scenes of violence, sometimes showing shots over and over while the incident is a hot media topic. Critics worry that children may copy activities or become desensitized to violence.

Types of Violence

Physical violence.

Athletes sometimes resort to violence, in hopes of injuring and intimidating opponents. Such incidents may be part of a strategy developed by coaches or players. An example of a pre-arranged strategy is the 99-call used by the British Lions Rugby Union team in their 1974 tour of South Africa, as a pre-arranged all-out attack on the South African team if one of the South African players was deemed to have committed a violent infraction that had gone unpunished by the home referees. Upon hearing the call of '99', each player would find the nearest opponent and attack him. This was based on the (correct) assumption that the referee would not dare to send off all the Lions if they all resorted simultaneously to violence.

In boxing, unruly or extremely violent behaviour by one of the contestants often results in the fighter breaking the rules being penalized with points taken off, or, in extreme cases, disqualification. Outlawed tactics in boxing include hitting the opponent on the back of the head, under the belly, during clinching, and to the back. Other tactics that are outlawed, but less seen, are pushing an opponent extremely hard to the floor, or hitting repeatedly after the round has ended.

Verbal abuse

Athletes, fans, parents, and coaches sometimes take part in verbal abuse, screaming at players, coaches, officials, and fans. In many sports, a certain amount of heckling is accepted and in many cases expected from fans, but this behavior can escalate to unacceptable levels. In European football, UEFA and has had to warn a number of teams about racist chants from supporters, and on some occasions has fined teams or forced them to play home matches at a neutral venue, or with no supporters allowed in the ground due to racist behaviour of supporters.

One especially notorious example of this behavior occurred in Madrid during an international friendly between Spain and England on November 17, 2004. Spain won the match 1-0, but the match will forever be remembered for racist chants leveled by portions of the Spanish crowd at black England players. Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips were the targets of monkey chants every time they touched the ball. After the match, Rio Ferdinand said that he was almost ready to walk off the pitch.

The buildup to this match was also heavily tinged with racism. The previous month, Spain coach Luis Aragonés criticized black French international star Thierry Henry in terms widely interpreted as racist. Later, he took a media swipe at England's "colonial" past. The day before the senior teams played, the two countries' under-21 sides played, and black England players in that match were also targets of racist abuse. After an investigation, UEFA fined the Spanish football federation 100,000 Swiss francs (approximately USD 87,000), and warned that any future incidents would be punished more severely. UEFA noted that possible punishments could include suspension from major international tournaments or the closure of Spanish home international matches to supporters.

Fan violence

In both the stands and the streets, fans may resort to violence to express loyalty to a team, to release frustration with a team’s performance, or to intimidate opponents. Violence may also be related to nationalism or as an outlet for underlying social tensions. It is often alcohol-related. (See also: List of violent spectator incidents in sports)

Violence by supporters of sports teams dates back to Roman times, when supporters of chariot racing teams were frequently involved in major riots. A notable example of this is the Nika riots of 532.

Montreal Canadiens fans rioted on March 17, 1955, after Maurice Richard received a suspension.

The actions of English football hooligans in the 1980s caused English teams to be banned from European competition for six years after the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985. Although the level of football-related violence was significantly reduced in England after this event, in the recent Template:Ec2 tournament, England were publicly warned that any violence by supporters at matches could result in the team's expulsion from the tournament. Many known hooligans were prevented from travelling to the tournament in Portugal. There was a collective sigh of relief from security experts in the USA when England failed to qualify for the Template:Wc. Alan Rothenberg (chairman of the World Cup organising committee in the United States in 1994) said:

There were three countries in the world whose presence would have created logistical and security problems, so we're very pleased they won't be coming: Iraq, Iran and England.

Parental violence

The parents of athletes occasionally become violent. Some taunt or hit coaches, players, and other parents. Others bully their own children, lashing out as punishment or misguided encouragement. In 2000, hockey dad Thomas Junta of Reading, Massachusetts was watching his 10 year old son at a summer ice hockey practice. Concerned about aggressive play, he yelled at coach Michael Costin of Lynnfield, Massachusetts. A fight ensued, spilling into the hallway. Junta, who was 100 pounds (45 kg) heavier, repeatedly punched Costin in the face, while holding him down with a knee to the chest. Junta's sons begged him to stop and another adult broke up the fight, but Costin died. Junta was later handed a six-to-10-year sentence for manslaughter.

Ritual violence

High school, college, and even professional sports teams often include initiation ceremonies (known as hazing in the USA) as a rite of passage. A 1999 study by Alfred University and the NCAA found that approximately four out of five college US athletes (250,000 per year) experienced hazing.[1] ( Half were required to take part in alcohol-related initiations, while two-thirds were subjected to humiliation rituals.

Notable events

The most notable event in modern sport-related violence was the Heysel Stadium disaster, when 39 people died when a wall collapsed under pressure of Juventus supporters fleeing from 'football hooligans' supporting Liverpool F.C..

In the 6th century, rivalry between supporters of the Blue and Green chariot-racing teams in Constantinople, led to 30,000 deaths in the week of the Nika riots in 532.

Other notable events include


Specialists in preventing sports violence have recommended:

  • emphasizing sportsmanship among young players.
  • promoting positive sports role models.
  • banning or restricting the consumption of alcohol.
  • imposing tougher penalties for athletes who cause or aggravate an altercation.
  • banning unruly spectators from stadiums.
  • prosecuting both athletes and non-athletes in the criminal courts.

Some critics suggest that sports psychology professionals could also counsel athletes, but coaches, parents and athletes may balk at accusations of emotional damage.

While the availability of alcohol at nearly all sporting venues is often cited as a key reason for provoking violence, most clubs would be very reluctant to stop selling alcohol at matches because it may discourage some fans from attending. Moreover, alcohol can be sold in a stadium at an enormous markup. High prices will undoubtedly temper the level of alcohol consumption somewhat, but most clubs nonetheless restrict the quantity of alcohol that can be purchased by fans and stop selling alcohol at some point before the end of the match. These restrictions may or may not be mandated by the liquor control board of the jurisdiction. Also, any alcohol will normally be sold in a plastic cup to prevent an unruly spectator from easily using the container as a missile.

In most sports, officials or referees impose penalties when athletes step outside the bounds of normal competitive play. Formal sporting organizations, such as the NHL, NBA, UEFA, sometimes impose suspensions, expulsions or fines.

In addition, precedents have been set in court wherein players are ordered to pay reparations for injuries caused during supposedly legal play. Former rugby league player Jarrod McCracken recently sued the Melbourne Storm organisation and former players Stephen Kearney and Marcus Bai for a "spear" tackle which allegedly ended his career. He was awarded Aus.$750,000 in damages which will be paid by the clubs insurers. Since then, a rugby league legislation change has been made, which will protect players from further litigation.

See also


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools