We Can’t Let Star Athletes Like Oscar Pistorius and Ray Rice Off the Hook

Convicted killer and paralympian Oscar Pistorius and former NFL player Ray Rice.  (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Convicted killer and paralympian Oscar Pistorius and former NFL player Ray Rice.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Writing for The Root, The Burton Wire‘s founder & editor-in-chief Dr. Nsenga Burton discusses the prevalence of violence against women in professional sports. Exploring the Oscar Pistorius verdict and Ray Rice scandal, Dr. Burton wonders aloud why violence against women is status quo in society and professional sports and the necessity of ending this dangerous pattern. Check out an excerpt below:


As the NFL and Baltimore Ravens franchise play a high-profile game of passing the buck over when they actually received the now infamous tape that shows Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee, we saw similar reactions in South Africa surrounding the Pistorius case. Pistorius’ Twitter account has been super active during the trial, quoting biblical passages and offering words of encouragement in support of Pistorius in his time of legal jeopardy. Whoever is posting even used a quote by legendary tennis player and humanitarian Arthur Ashe to remind people to forgive—leading me to ask, how low-down do you have to be to use the words of a great man like Ashe to support your attempt to portray yourself as a victim when on trial for killing your girlfriend?

In the tradition of George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson, a Support for Oscar website surfaced pretty quickly following his arrest, with a description that reads, “Oscar Pistorius—athlete, ambassador, inspiration—innocent until proven guilty,” and yet leaves off “killer” as a descriptor.

Therein lies the rub. People are so obsessed with sports figures that any actions that disrupt their perception of athletes’ heroics are dismissed, even by those who should understand the most. Countless fans, including women, wore Rice jerseys at Thursday night’s Ravens game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And fans were cheering for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who faced accusations of sexual assault just a few years ago. As I watched the game last night, I wondered, what is wrong with this picture?

Rice and Pistorius have very different lives but do have something in common: They are celebrated athletes involved in high-profile cases of violence against women whom they claim to love. While many fans and players are railing against what Rice and Pistorius have done, there are just as many professing their unyielding support for the two athletes. Why is this?

We don’t value women in sports culture, which is a microcosm of society. The fact that we need Title IX in the first place highlights this fact. The amount of violence suffered by women at the hands of men is an example. In terms of domestic violence, 1 in 3 women in the United States will become a victim during her lifetime, and overwhelmingly at the hands of a man. In terms of race, black women are being killed by intimate partners at alarming rates, and overwhelmingly by gun violence…

Read the post in its entirety at The Root.

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