The Super Bowl & Domestic Violence

Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, home of Superbowl LIII.

Super Bowl LIII is over, and Rams fans are licking their wounds after their 13-3 loss, and uninspired offense. Somehow my 10 y.o. son is a Patriots fan – not quite sure where I went wrong, as my two favorite teams are (1) the Broncos, and (2) whoever is playing the Patriots. So while the game was okay, the outcome was a disappointment.

Fortunately, one disappointment the nation avoided was a spike in emergency room visits for domestic violence after the Big Game. Like those other urban legends, the link between football and spousal abuse has been thoroughly discredited.

Domestic violence is serious enough that it does not need a false narrative to make it an evil that needs to be recognized and stomped out. And in the legal arena, there are serious consequences to domestic violence:

In 1993, Super Bowl Sunday was dubbed a “Day of Dread” for women, and the New York Times called America’s biggest sporting event the “Abuse Bowl”. All because a group falsely claimed that incidents of spousal abuse spiked after the Super Bowl. They did the rounds of TV interviews, and convinced NBC to air a public service announcement “Domestic violence is a crime” (nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that it reinforced the false link between watching football and domestic violence).

Misrepresenting what one study had found, the group claimed “wife beating” and hospital visits increased by 40%, or, depending upon the interview, that calls to battered women shelters increased 40%.

And the press was receptive – after all, the NFL has had plenty of well-earned notoriety for its domestic violence over the years. Throw testosterone, alcohol, and emotional fans into the mix, and this link between the Super Bowl and domestic violence was certainly easy to believe.

But subsequent studies have proven these claims false, and real domestic violence experts decry the false narrative for the way it trivializes abuse, almost creates an excuse for it (the game), and it limits the conversation to one day per year. There are times when domestic violence calls do spike (surprisingly, right after the holidays), but the Super Bowl is not one of them.

Fortunately, this myth has largely been consigned to the dustbin of history (not completely, however – Mika Brzezinski repeated the claim as recently as 2014). Even Snopes calls it a “Noble Lie.” Domestic violence is a scourge that deserves facts and serious discussion, not false headlines.

Now if only someone could put the Patriots in their place. As painful as this to admit, even when he’s not cheating, Tom Brady is almost certainly the GOAT.

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