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The False Link Between Domestic Violence in Marriage & the Super Bowl

Don't Believe the 1993 Claims

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Photo: Donna Coleman / iStockphoto Photo: Donna Coleman / iStockphoto

Back in 1993, a claim based only on anecdotal evidence stated that there was an increase in domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday. As a result, news media including "Good Morning America," the Associated Press, CBS, NBC, and major newspapers across the country labeled Super Bowl Sunday a "day of dread" for women.

The claim was not true then.

The claim is not true now.

How the Super Bowl Domestic Violence Myth Started

In January 1993, the organization, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) released a press released that stated: "The Super Bowl is one of the most widely viewed television events every year. Unfortunately, women's shelters report that Super Bowl Sunday is also one of the worst days of the year for violence against women in the home."
Source: Fair.org.

NBC Sports and the National Football League were convinced to air, during the pregame show of Super Bowl XXVII, a 20-second public service announcement addressing the issue of domestic violence. Although the p.s.a. made "no reference to the connection between violence in the living room and violence on the playing field", linking domestic violence to Super Bowl Sunday was made in the minds of many.
Source: New York Times, Robert Lipsyte, January 31, 1993.

Quick Retraction by Media But Super Bowl Myth Continues

On January 31, 1993, when Ken Ringle of The Washington Post questioned the information mentioned in the press release, other news media quickly retracted their articles covering the domestic violence story.

The damage was done. The myth continues and Super Bowl Sunday is still sometimes referred to as Bloody Sunday, Abuse Bowl, a Day of Dread, and the Most Dangerous Day in America.

Misinterpretations and Irresponsible Claims

The information used by the FAIR press release was a misinterpretation of Janet Katz's sociological study done while she was at Old Dominion University.
Regarding the Old Dominion study, Ken Ringle of The Washington Post wrote: "One of the most notable findings, she [Katz] said, was that an increase of emergency room admissions "was not associated with the occurrence of football games in general, nor with watching a team lose." When they looked at win days alone, however, they found that the number of women admitted for gunshot wounds, stabbings, assaults, falls, lacerations and wounds from being hit by objects was slightly higher than average. But certainly not 40 percent."

"These are interesting but very tentative findings, suggesting what violence there is from males after football may spring not from a feeling of defensive insecurity, which you'd associate with a loss, but from the sense of empowerment following a win. We found that significant. But it certainly doesn't support what those women are saying in Pasadena," Katz said."
Source: Ken Ringle. "Debunking the 'Day of Dread' for Women; Data Lacking for Claim of Domestic Violence Surge After Super Bowl." The Washington Post. January 31, 1993. pg. A.01.

Additionally, there had been a belief during that time period that major sporting events, liquor, gambling, frustrated men, and sexy advertising created a "climate of aggression", heightened "male-female tensions", and a need for power and control.
Source: Robert Lipsyte. New York Times. January 31, 1993.

Quotes About the Super Bowl Myth

Dr. Richard Gelles: "There never was a study that found that Super Bowl Sunday was the day with the most violence toward women or the most hospital admissions for domestic violence. This kind of 'urban legend' trivializes the causes and consequences of domestic violence."
Source: Upenn.edu. Controversies on Domestic Violence/ January 2006.

Ken Lingle: "Part of what's going on, apparently, is the twin phenomena of media convergence and media orchestration, in which causists show up wherever the most TV lenses are focused, hoping to piggyback their message out to a global audience of millions."
Source: Ken Ringle. "Debunking the 'Day of Dread' for Women; Data Lacking for Claim of Domestic Violence Surge After Super Bowl." The Washington Post. January 31, 1993. pg. A.01.

Steve Rendell, FAIR spokesman, about the 1993 press release: "It was not quite accurate ... It should not have gone out in FAIR materials."
Source: Bob Hohler. "Super Bowl gaffe: Groups back off on violence claims." The Boston Globe. February 2, 1993. p. 1

David Silber of George Washington University: "You're dealing in an area where there's a lot more folklore than fact ... I know of no study documenting any such link [between football and/or Super Bowls and domestic violence.] And I know the literature very well."
Source: Ken Ringle. "Debunking the 'Day of Dread' for Women; Data Lacking for Claim of Domestic Violence Surge After Super Bowl." The Washington Post. January 31, 1993. pg. A.01.

Lundy Bancroft, of Emerge: "I disbelieved the 40 percent thing from the moment I heard it. What we believe is that the increase in domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday is similar to other key days of the year, like Christmas and Thanksgiving. But we can't support the 40 percent figure ... We know from our experience that football fans are no more likely to be batterers than someone who is strictly into playing chess or into reading great literature. There is no stereotypical batterer."
Source: Bob Hohler. "Super Bowl gaffe: Groups back off on violence claims." The Boston Globe. February 2, 1993. p. 1

Michael Lindsey, a Denver psychotherapist and authority on battered women, about the 1993 press release: "I hate this. I've devoted 14 years of my life trying to bring to the public's attention the very serious problem of battered women. And when people make crazy statements like this, the credibility of the whole cause can go right out the window."
Source: Ken Ringle. "Debunking the 'Day of Dread' for Women; Data Lacking for Claim of Domestic Violence Surge After Super Bowl." The Washington Post. January 31, 1993. pg. A.01.

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