Over the past decade, the law's emergence into the professional sports arena has been increasing. Traditional criminal assault and battery charges have been levied against professional athletes for injuring other participants. Professional players have also been allowed to recover under tort law for injuries incurred as a result of the intentional and reckless conduct of their fellow players. Despite this increase in judicial activity, however, standards of conduct for professional sports participants are still not well defined and enforcement is haphazard and uneven. To alleviate these problems and also to satisfy the perceived increase in societal consciousness towards violent acts in general, Rep. Ronald M. Mottl of Ohio proposed H.R. 7903, The Sports Violence Act of 1980.
The purpose of the Act is to “deter and punish, through criminal penalties, the episodes of excessive violence that are increasingly characterizing professional sports.” The bill would make it a federal crime for a player in a professional sporting event to knowingly use excessive physical force against one of his fellow participants. Excessive physical force is defined generally as force which has no reasonable relationship to the competitive goals of the sport and which is not a foreseeable hazard of the athlete's involvement in the sport. The maximum penalty for violating the statute would be a $5,000 fine and one year imprisonment.
This Comment will first examine the various mechanisms that have been used to deal with acts of professional sports violence, namely internal league controls, tort law and state criminal assault and battery statutes. After an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of these existing approaches, the Act will be evaluated to determine if its approach offers a substantial improvement over those methods of control already available. It will be seen that although current enforcement procedures may be inadequate in most cases, the Act fails to offer any solutions to the problems Suffered by these existing methods of control. Arguably, the Act even presents some new interpretative problems not presently encountered with existing approaches.
Langevin, Mark E.
"A Proposed Legislative Solution to the Problem of Violent Acts by Participants during Professional Sporting Events: The Sports Violence Act of 1980,"
University of Dayton Law Review: Vol. 7:
1, Article 6.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udlr/vol7/iss1/6