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Do we encourage violence?

The excitement of a game; it’s exhilarating, competitive and violent. Technical aptitude aside (I don’t want to take away from the players the incredible skill involved), some would say it’s pretty much an excuse for players to smash each other up.

The NRL recently came under scrutiny again when Sydney Roosters winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall was brought up on charges including six counts of assault, assault causing actual bodily harm, using a carriage service to menace and harass as well as stalking and intimidation, all towards his ex-girlfriend.

According to Roosters co-captain, Jake Friend: “We haven’t stood him down, it’s simply because he’s not right to play. Once he is, I’m sure he’ll be straight back in our team.”

I just leave that with you for a moment to consider what it says about the seriousness of the alleged crimes.

What does it say? It says: “We don’t really care that he’s up on these serious charges of Domestic Violence, he’ll be playing again soon (after the case).”

Presumption of innocence aside, of course, it sounds to this writer that the alleged crimes aren’t being taken seriously. At time of print the case has been adjourned until August 6.

So does the NRL play a role in our violent society, beyond being just a sport? Whether seated in the stands or the lounge room, it seems that violence, sport and entertainment go hand in hand.

Take SOO for example (that’s State Of Origin for those who don’t know), ABC journalist, Ned Manning, explains it as follows. “SOO is violent. There’s no getting away from it. Players can do things to each other in SOO games they would never be allowed to do in club games, or anywhere else for that matter.” He then goes on to acknowledge: “Most kicks in SOO are directed at the head of the opponent rather than the ball. The game itself is deliciously spiteful. Eyes and heads roll with riveting regularity.”

Deliciously spiteful. Violent. Heads roll with riveting regularity.

Hmmm, I am seeing a common theme here; we’re finding entertainment in violence, not in the sport, but in the violence of the players. This is a problem. These players, like it or not, are role models in our society for every man, woman and child who follows their success. So if violence is an accepted and celebrated part of the sport, is it possible or even plausible that many feel this behaviour extends into their home as a normal and accepted behaviour because we as society actively encourage it in our sports players for entertainment?

That violence occurs on-field is certainly cause for concern and when it happens off field, by a player, in their own home, it is somehow explained away: “He was under too much stress”; “She goaded him”; “He’s very young and impressionable”… And that has a cultural impact on the greater society. More than we care to admit or readily identify.

Women Dead from Domestic Violence in July: 6

Year to Date: 53

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