Like so many, I'm an avid sports fan. I watch sports nearly all year and play them on the weekend. I follow my favorite teams in almost every major league and watch relevant teams in any spare moment. Unfortunately, many of these leagues and teams are riddled with violence, drug abuse, and social injustice. The most recent illustration of this point came on Sept. 8, when TMZ released elevator security camera footage that showed Baltimore Ravens' star running back, Ray Rice, knocking his then fiancée, Janay Rice, unconscious. For those who follow the NFL, this came as no surprise: a similar video recorded on the night of the incident (Feb. 15, 2014) caught Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator and onto the casino floor. For many, the first video was tragic, but not nearly as condemning as watching the 2012 Super Bowl Champion knock out his fiancée and wait for the elevator to open so that Rice could drag her limp body onto the Revel casino floor -- with no apparent sign of remorse. The video is particularly disturbing for those, like me, who have gasped and cheered while watching Rice's athleticism on Sundays.
In the weeks since the video was released, I've struggled with what, in particular, struck a nerve while watching this video. While actually seeing the encounter is horrific, I have known about domestic violence in the NFL -- and most other professional leagues -- for years. Maybe this instance was more personal: I could see the violence and disregard for human life. More likely because the video shook loose feelings of involvement: I was contributing -- maybe not directly, but certainly indirectly -- to the apathy surrounding domestic abuse in sports.
One summer when I was 13, my brother invited over all his buddies, bought some chips and dip, and told me we were going to watch boxing that night. I was excited: my brother was including me in something and I loved sports -- even though I was not a fan of boxing at the time. He told me one of the fighters was from Michigan, my home state, and one was from Mexico. I was young, but I knew enough about sports to know that when someone from the United States takes on anyone from anywhere else, you root for your own: I had my favorite. So, before I even knew his name, I was attached to Floyd Mayweather.
That night, Mayweather beat Oscar De La Hoya in a split decision, 12-round classic. For all of one week he was the greatest human being to ever live. Then I forgot about him and stopped watching boxing for three years. In 2010, I again became interested in boxing and paid the pay-per-view price to watch Mayweather defeat Shane Mosley. Since, I've paid $60 to $75 to watch Mayweather fight more than a few times. Additionally, I've watched documentaries about his childhood, fight preparation, and his previous fights. No doubt, I am a small part of the reason why Mayweather earned $105 million this year in only two fights. I had done all this with the knowledge that Mayweather had frequent violent outbursts. Nevertheless, I was so attached to him as a sports figure that I let it get in the way of my sense of decency.
Recently, Mayweather has been charged with eight crimes, stemming from allegations that Mayweather physically assaulting his girlfriend in Sept. 2010. I didn't know the details, but I had heard about most of these charges and continued to buy hundreds of dollars worth of pay-per-view subscriptions to watch Mayweather fight. Worse still, I have openly mocked major leagues, such as the NFL or NBA, for having such lenient views on violent crimes. Obviously, Mayweather and Rice aren't the only culprits: the NFL is riddled with cases of domestic violence and, without fail, I tune in to watch the big games every Sunday.
As long as sports are interesting to viewers, leagues turn a blind eye and players fail to hold their peers accountable. Fans, for their part, rarely speak out against leagues and are only pushed to do so in extreme cases. Ultimately, the responsibility to ostracize those who systematically abuse their positions as superstars and act above the law falls upon the fans. Little is done without consumers showing discontent with the status quo. In other words, if you feel the urge, it's your responsibility to write a blog! Or dissent! Or speak up! Insert cliché here!