The issue of violence in sports is significant in both professional sports and youth sports. In professional sports, violence may be perpetrated by the athletes on the field, or it may occur in the stands when spectators engage in violent verbal or physical behavior (Glass, 2014). When considering violence in sports, it is important to acknowledge that there is a difference between the inherent risk of playing sports and deliberate violence on the field or the court. As understandings of the issue of violence in sports have evolved over time, the line between these two issues has sometimes been blurry. For over a hundred years, the rules of professional sports like football have periodically modified to reduce the amount of allowable violence in the game (US Legal, 2016). These changes have often been mediated by the fans who watch sports and play a role in the development of a socially acceptable limit on the amount of violence that is acceptable within the context of certain sports (Glass, 2014).
In youth sports, the significance of the issue of violence in sports revolves around the effect that it can have on a young person’s quality of life and future outcomes. Violence in youth sports may be an indication of learned behaviors of aggression among young athletes, but it may also foster aggressive behaviors in young people by exposing them to violence—or even encouraging it (Widdicks, 2016). Over time, youth sports have become increasingly competitive, with athletes expected to meet higher performances standards at earlier ages (Miner, 2016). This can promote an unhealthy level of competition that can initiate outbreaks of violence. At the same time, the tacit acceptance of violence in youth sports can enable bullying behaviors in parents, coaches, and young athletes, who may justify the behavior by saying that violence is an inevitable part of the game.
Impact on the Global Sports Industry
Violence can have significant impacts on the global sports industry. For instance, spectator violence around the world may cause fans to think twice before deciding to attend a major sporting event (Mey & McGee, 2012). For instance, in 1996, a stampede at a World Cup qualifying match in Guatemala killed 78 people and injured 180 others (Mey & McGee, 2012). More recently, in 2011, a fan in Los Angeles, California, was almost beaten to death by fans of the opposing team in the parking lot of a baseball stadium (Mey & McGee, 2012). Incidents like these can reduce the popularity of watching sports in person, which may raise the importance of television and online advertising in the global sports industry, while reducing investment in creating positive on-site experiences for fans.
Violence in sports may also help shape the industry by helping to determine which sports are the most popular among spectators. For instance, in the United States today, disagreements regarding the boundary between the inherent risks of sport and deliberate, unnecessary violence have threatened the popularity of football (Crouch, 2017). For instance, some spectators, including President Donald Trump, have complained that restrictions on unsafe hits are “ruining the game” (Crouch, 2017). At the same time, other fans are choosing not to watch because they think the sport is too violent. Tensions over the issue of violence may lessen the prominence of football within the global sports industry (Crouch, 2017).
Violence in youth sports also has the potential to affect the global sports industry. As of August 2017, the youth sports industry in the United States alone was estimated at about $15.3 billion, and it has been on the rise since 2010 (Gregory, 2017). However, as more parents question the potential effects of their children’s exposure to violence, the economic importance of youth sports may start to decline around the world (Widdicks, 2016). Stressors that result from an increase in the violence of youth sports may also lead more children to quit playing sports at younger ages (Miner, 2016). Not only could this directly affect the global industry around youth sports, but it could also reduce interest in professional sports among young people who feel less of a connection with athletics.
Implications of Violence in Sports
Violence in sports has a wide range of cultural, social, and political implications. One possible implication is an increased tolerance within society of violence in general. If children grow up experiencing violence in youth sports and watching it in professional sports, they may become less sensitive to incidents of violence both on and off the field when they get older (Widdicks, 2016). This can contribute to a culture of violence. When exploring this concept in greater depth, it may be valuable to examine empirical evidence that there is a psychological connection between aggression and reward (Glass, 2014). It may also be valuable to examine Freudian theory that violence can be rewarding for the perpetrator (Glass, 2014).
Violence in youth sports can also have significant social and cultural implications. Youth sports have a wide range of benefits for young people, so the decline in popularity could yield significant changes in society. For instance, youth sports offer opportunities for young people to develop positive lifelong exercise habits (Gregory, 2017). If young people being to avoid youth sports because they are too violent, the result could be an escalation of the global obesity epidemic. Participation in youth sports can also have emotional benefits and prepare young people for success in school and the workplace (Neighmond, 2015), but young people may not reap these benefits if they are participating in youth sports that are characterized by violence or if they avoiding youth sports altogether.
- Crouch, I. (2017). An NFL hit and Donald Trump’s love of violence. The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/a-big-nfl-hit-and-donald-trumps-love-of-violence
- Glass, L.L. (2014). The psychology of violence in sports – On the field and in the stands. WBUR. Retrieved from http://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2014/03/18/sports-violence-psychology-leonard-l-glass
- Gregory, S. (2017). How kids’ sports became a $15 billion industry. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4913687/how-kids-sports-became-15-billion-industry/
- Mey, R.S. & Mc.Gee, J.A. (2012). TSG brief: Spectator violence – is there a solution? The Soufan Group. Retrieved from http://www.soufangroup.com/tsg-brief-spectator-violence-is-there-a-solution/
- Miner, J.W. (2016). Why 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/06/01/why-70-percent-of-kids-quit-sports-by-age-13/?utm_term=.f21510939c7d
- Neighmond, P. (2015). Benefits of sports to a child’s mind and heart all part of the game. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/07/01/418899249/benefits-of-sports-to-a-childs-mind-and-heart-all-part-of-the-game
- Sports violence. (n.d.). US Legal. Retrieved from https://sportslaw.uslegal.com/sports-violence/
- Widdicks, M. (2016). How violence in professional sports is ruining games for kids. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/02/01/how-violence-in-professional-sports-is-ruining-games-for-kids/?utm_term=.5f879ea5eaf8