In 2010, shortly after giving birth to their child, Eliza Samudio, ex-lover of famed goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souzawas, was kidnapped, tortured, strangled to death, and then chopped into pieces and fed to Souzawas’s Rottweilers.
Referred to by his fans as Bruno, the Brazilian soccer star that was once rumored to play for Brazil in the 2014 World Cup orchestrated this gruesome crime in an alleged effort to avoid paying child support. After being convicted in 2010 and originally sentenced to four and half years in prison, Bruno was resentenced in 2013 to 22 years after confessing his involvement in Samudio’s murder.
However, Bruno was recently released on a technicality earlier this year after serving only six years. It only took one month after his release for Bruno to be picked up by a team. Bruno signed a two-year contract with Boa Esporte, a second-tier Brazilian football club. The club’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, posted on his Facebook a lengthy defense of the decision to sign Bruno, claiming that “the team isn’t committing any crimes by signing Bruno” and that “he deserves a new opportunity as a professional.”
Bruno is only one of many recent athletes in a long line that have been allowed to continue their sports career after committing a violent crime against a woman. A large portion of these crimes are acts of domestic violence, something for which the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB don’t have any specific policy for holding players accountable. The lack of punishment athletes receive after committing these crimes is unparalleled in comparison to other offenses that violate their personal conduct policy, such as failing a drug test.
According to USA Today Sports Reporter Lindsay H. Jones, 84 NFL players were arrested for domestic violence between 2000 and 2013 and none of them received more than a one game suspension. This is absurd when you compare it to the mandated four game suspension for players who fail a drug test.
On top of their leniency, the NFL’s lack of consistency when it comes to how players are punished is also an issue. This stems from two major problems with the organization’s policy towards domestic violence. The first and most important problem is that there is no individually written procedure that explicitly outlines how players will be punished. Instead, domestic violence is found at the top of a list under the organization’s Personal Conduct Policy. Secondly, under the personal conduct policy, the commissioner is the sole individual who is in charge of punishing players who commit these crimes.
Since 2006, the commissioner of the NFL has been Roger Goodell, who, in 2014, announced that harsher punishments would be imposed on players who commit domestic violence. But just how much harsher are these punishments? Well, players are given two chances, making Goodell’s policy nothing but a slap-on-the-wrist warning system. Players receive a six game suspension for their first offense, and after their second offense, they are banned for life from the NFL. So, if there is consistency to be found, it’s in the fact that players will miss the same amount of games for taking performance enhancing drugs than if they were to hit a woman.
But the NFL isn’t the only American sports organization to favor a man’s athletic ability over a woman’s safety. Both the MLB and NBA claim that domestic violence and other similar acts of abuse fall under broader clauses in their collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Worse than the NFL, this broad approach leaves even more room for leniency. In fact, MLB players who are suspended during the regular season for domestic violence are still allowed to participate in the playoffs, while players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs are not. Similarly, NBA players guilty of domestic violence only face a ten game minimum suspension.
Even more upsetting, and not at all surprising, is the fact that this lack of punishment occurs at almost every level of athletic competition. Former University of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is a prime example of this flawed system. Mixon worked out a plea deal in order to avoid jail time in 2014 after punching fellow student Amelia Molitor, shattering over half of her face. After only being suspended for one year, Mixon was allowed to return to both the football team and the university without further penalty. After recently declaring for the NFL draft, Mixon pleaded for forgiveness in an interview, saying, “If I could take it back, I will. But at the same time, I can’t go back. It’s what you do from there and that mistake. And as long as you learn from your mistakes, they’ll see improvement.”
But it’s fair to ask, how many times will violence against women be chalked up as merely the perpetrator’s “mistake?” Moreover, if an institution of higher education doesn’t hold individuals responsible for perpetrating acts of violence against women, then it seems a little far-fetched that a business will. Apparently, the limelight only shines on an individual’s ability to perform on the field, allowing their violent “mistakes” to remain in the shadows.