Publication Date


Document Type


Organizational Units

Sturm College of Law


Professional sports associations, Domestic violence, Victim autonomy


This article examines how men'sprofessional sports leagues treat domestic violence committed by players. Over the past twenty years, but particularly over the last five, the public has criticized, and the media has shone a spotlight on, the big leagues' ignoring of the issue. Many call for parity between how the criminal justice system treats the issue of domestic violence and how the leagues should treat it, arguing for a zero-tolerance approach. This article applies lessons learned by feminist law and policy makers and legal scholars in the development of the larger justice system response to domestic violence to the nascent development of the same in men's professional sports. It uncovers the unintended consequences of a zero-tolerance approach that over-relies upon punitive sanctions. These consequences include the loss of victim voice and autonomy, the erosion of due process for alleged perpetrators, and the limiting of our understanding of the intersectionality of race, class, and gender identity that individually and institutionally contribute to the norm of domestic violence, to name but a few. Applying masculinities theory, the article argues for tempered measures to decrease players'perpetration of domestic violence and for resources deployed to a cultural shift in attitude about masculinity, women, and intimate relationships. The article proceeds in five parts. After a brief introduction in Part I, Part II demonstrates why society generally and feminist law and policy makers particularly should care about how men'sprofessional sport treats the issue of domestic violence, by documenting the ubiquity of men's professional sports and consequent viewing of athletes as role models, particularly by youth. Part III describes each of the four big league's historic treatment of domestic violence committed by players and traces the development of policies (or lack thereof) to address the issue. Part IV identifies the unintended consequences of the development of criminal and civil justice law and policy addressing domestic violence in the United States over the past fifty years and applies lessons learned, from a feminist legal perspective, to leagues'policies. It concludes that on balance, the Major League Baseball and National Basketball League are headed in the right direction. Its policies simultaneously have teeth while providing the most due process and individually tailored treatment of perpetrators. In Part V, however, the article argues that to address most meaningfully the issue of domestic violence the leagues should proactively take steps, even if baby steps, to foster a cultural downshift in hypermasculine norms that underlie the use of violence against women. Such significant change cannot happen overnight. Hence the title of this article. The goal is not the immediate slam dunk, but rather to advance the ball down the field, deliberately, incrementally and patiently.

Publication Statement

Originally published as Chelsea Augelli & Tamara L. Kuennen, Intimate Partner Violence & Men’s Professional Sports: Advancing the Ball, 21 D.U. SPORTS & ENT. L.J. 27 (2018).

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Rights Holder

Chelsea Augelli, Tamara L. Kuennen


Received from author

File Format



English (eng)


62 pgs

File Size

3.6 MB

Publication Title

Sports and Entertainment Law Journal



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