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Domestic violence is a crime, and athletes aren't above it

More needs to be done to end domestic violence in athletes' personal lives

New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose arrives at the Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles as testimony resumes on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in the lawsuit by an ex-girlfriend, alleging that Rose and two friends drugged and raped her in 2013. Rose and his co-defendants contend the sex was consensual.

According to Domestic Violence Statistics, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds. This is a cultural problem in the United States, and it can be found everywhere, from suburban homes to athletes' mansions. 

With the recent cases of Darren Collison, Josh Brown and Derrick Rose, there are obvious problems with how athletes are preferred in domestic violence situations.

Rose, a New York Knicks basketball player, was accused of drugging and gang-raping a woman who then took him to civil court. The court proceeding was full of victim blaming, attacks on the woman’s character and even speculation about how sexual of a person she was based on her social media as an actual defense in court. After all, Rose was found "not liable" on Oct. 19.

“It’s a shame for women, for this country, that a celebrity can come into court and slut-shame a woman like my client,” Attorney Waukeen McCoy told the Associated Press.

Jill Messing, ASU social work professor, says that it is not unusual to see victim blaming in these types of court cases and that it is actually a sad norm.

On the other hand, Collison, a Sacramento Kings basketball player, pled guilty to one count of misdemeanor domestic violence last month. Collison is under probation for three years and was given a 20-day jail sentence. However, according to James Ham of CSN California, Collison will serve 20 days in an Alternative Sentencing Program and not any actual days in jail.

After Collison pled guilty, he also received an eight game suspension by the NBA. This suspension seems inappropriately low in comparison to the 15 game suspension that someone would receive for violating the drug policy.

“I think that’s really problematic because it indicates what people care about," Messing said. "So it indicates what the (league) cares about. What they care about and don’t want their players to do is to use marijuana or drugs or whatever, but domestic violence then seems like they’re okay with that.”

Jeff Van Gundy, former coach and now ESPN color commentator, has a proposal to stop this epidemic in sports.

“My one suggestion going forward is, any felony committed against a woman should be a full-season suspension,” Van Gundy said in an ESPN broadcast. “And on the second one, you’re gone.”

Van Gundy’s plan offers a serious solution with harsh punishments. Even if the upgraded suspensions don’t drop the rate of crimes against women, it will at least show that the NBA is serious about the issue and won't stand for domestic violence. 

The NFL seemingly only initiates serious suspensions after there is public outrage surrounding an incident. When Ray Rice assaulted his then fiancé, and now wife, in 2014 he was first only suspended for two games. After the video of him punching her in an elevator went public, people were disgusted and could not believe that the suspension was so short. After public outcry, the NFL reacted and banned him from the NFL for life, which it later repealed anyways.

“So much of domestic violence is like swept under the rug,” Messing said. “So I guess when people hear about it and get upset about it, which doesn’t happen very often, the leagues have to do something about it."

Rice’s case is very similar to Josh Brown, a New York Giants football player's. Brown was arrested for domestic violence against his now ex-wife in May of 2015. Brown’s ex-wife told police that Brown was physically violent with her more than 20 times. The Giant’s kicker only received a one game suspension by the NFL, even though domestic violence is now supposed to be a minimum six game ban.

Considering Brown's domestic violence just surfaced in the media last week, maybe public outcry will increase his punishment the same way it harshened Rice's.

Harsh punishments should be dished out to these people who commit crimes against women. However, these punishments shouldn’t just occur when the general public gets involved. 

Every domestic or sexual violence case in sports should carry similar punishments. If professional leagues like the NFL and NBA are cutting salaries and pulling contracts, it will show that their athletes are not above the law. After that, hopefully there will be a drastic culture change and stereotypical relationships between athletes and women will improve.

Reach the columnist at or follow @kynan_marlin on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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