If the athlete’s violence against women is the cause; the media reporting is the effect as the media coverage of crime is not reflective of actual crime rates. There exists biases of gender, age, race, socioeconomic status, and this research provided several data points, which provided evidence that such biases influence public perception of perpetrators and victims. Consequently, recurrent exposure to unbalanced reporting on violent crimes against women where athletes are the perpetrators leads the audience to a warped perception of these crimes and feel a false sense of security for others who are involved in violent criminal activity against women as the threat does not exist solely from athletes.

Athletes do dominate the media with their actions on and off their field of play. Unfortunately, bad behavior by athletes seems to be commonplace in today’s society. But, violence against women is also a huge problem in society, and when athletes are the perpetrator’s of the violence against women, these acts are going to garner attention. The violence of athletes against women is a serious problem that faces the athletic community. Drastic methods need to be taken to fight these violent crimes. But the problem in the athletic community is merely a microcosm of society in general. If the media does not assist in reporting these crimes in a way where their coverage contribute in reducing the occurrence of this violent behavior, then the number of incidents will continue to rise. Those who perpetrate these crimes will commit more, and this vicious cycle of allowing these crimes to marginalize women may never end. The subject matter of violence against women where athletes are involved was the focus of this paper because the athlete’s involvement included the media and how they reported and covered these crimes. The media uses these crimes against women as headline grabbers and pay slight attention to how their platform could assist in the prevention of these crimes irrespective of how you define these crimes.

The problem in reporting does exist in the definition of these crimes because they do take on different meanings. Women are subjected to rape, assault, psychological abuse as well as stalking and online shaming. The term violence could also be a point of confusion because of the connotation that is associated with the word. When “violence” is reported, most people associate it with some sort of physical confrontation. But violence crimes against women can also include the targeting of the victim over a period of time. Threats or forcible behavior, manipulation, pornography, sexual harassment, and other forms of maltreatment that are not the results of physical injury are also derivations of this crime. But this is a societal problem not just a problem that plagues the athletic community. The proper reporting of these offences is also an issue when trying to accurately cover these crimes, as the victims are usually reluctant to report these offences because they are afraid, ashamed or they are fearful of the publicity from the media. The fear of how the media covers these crimes comes from the misrepresentation of violence reported by the media, especially when athletes are involved in the offense.

Media representations of violence against women have been found to generate stereotypes and myths about “real” and “deserving” victims and perpetrators. Furthermore, portrayals of the athlete involved in the crime can be simplistic, misleading, and overly reliant on clichéd and type casted characters. Characterizations as ancient as they are inflammatory— the large menacing looking football player, the basketball player with the 100 million dollar contract and the baseball player who lives in a home that was featured in MTV Cribs. The news media tend to position violence against women as isolated incidents by these athletes, without recognizing a broader problem that is occurring within a social context of how women can be marginalized in society by these crimes. The focused reporting on athletes as a sole perpetrator of these crimes creates the impression that violence against women is a rare action by a deviant athlete, rather than the widespread social problem as supported in the data collected while undertaking research for this project.

An unintended result of the media’s reporting in this way is the social narrative about violence against women that negates the victim’s perspective and reinforces myths and stereotypes of the athletes that grab headlines and sustain stories. The findings from this research concluded that the media frequently creates then mirrors society’s confusion and ambivalence about violence against women.

This research supported the findings that the media does provide disproportionate coverage of violent crimes against women when athletes are involved. The study also provided support that the media does influence how the intended audience can misunderstand violence against women. Those in the media who report on these crimes should consider the effects of their coverage and the balance they provide in reporting and not just the tenet of “if it bleeds it leads.”
The findings provided a glimpse into the complexity of reporting and the necessity for proper reporting practices. Clearly, media has the potential to more precisely reflect the reality of violent crimes against women when athletes are the perpetrators, and our results point to some ways that might be accomplished. The media reporting could help in promoting several solutions that would help decrease violence against women by athletes and non-athletes. As in most cases, the solution must include education. The education must start at an early age to get kids who will eventually become adults accustomed to the habits of respecting women and controlling anger is situations the where the perception is that violence is the reliant problem solver.
As a division 1 athlete, my help has been elicited to mentor high school aged kids on the detriments of drugs and violence. A domestic violence initiative could be a program quickly initiated with the help of the media promoting such programs. Their (the media) reporting must make society recognize that these crimes are not “celebrity” crimes when they occur, as they are commonplace in society. Reporting could point to the need more strict laws and sterner punishments to deter people from committing violent crimes against women. If the athlete must be the focus of their reporting, the media could also report on such programs as Partner With The Pros, an initiative across major sports where athletes are used as entrées into the community to encourage and support meaningful dialogue about issues that confront society.

Finally, educating those entrusted to report these crimes in a meaningful way where they understand the influence of their coverage as well as the opportunities their platform offers when they provide balanced reporting on violent crimes where athletes are involved as perpetrators. In a country that is so reliant on the media and so enthralled with their athletes, producing the necessary changes in how the media reports on these violent crimes will necessitate a change in how we report on our athletes. Additionally, education and most importantly how we empower women by adequately and accurately reporting on instances of athletes’ violent crimes against women are the necessary steps that should be undertaken to address for societies proper perception of this problem.

photo credit: Kyle Engman Adrian Peterson via photopin (license)