TO BE ASSESSED.
Violence is unfortunately all around us, from a young age we can experience violence through bullying either physically or verbally, violence is creeping more and more into social media through txt bullying/online bullying and New Zealand is well known for domestic/family violence. Statistics provided by the Ministry of Social Development (2017) state that about half of all homicides in NZ are committed by someone who is identified as family. But when it comes to sport (especially rugby) we tend to look the other way or ‘sweep it under the carpet’, by taking a sociological view on the topic of violence in sport I aim to delve deeper into why this is through this blog.
Big name All Blacks such as George Moala (assault – with intent to injure), Julian Savea (domestic assault) and Sitiveni Sivivatu (domestic assault) are some of the stand out athletes involved in the long list of rugby players who have avoided convictions for violent acts. However, recently perhaps the biggest talking point in relation to violence within NZ rugby is Losi Filipo, Filipo’s committed an act of hostile aggression in 2016 assaulting four people including two females. Filipo was sentenced to nine months of supervision on the conditions that he attended anger management, alcohol and drug courses. According to 1News (2016) The judge who handed out these punishments was accused of glossing over the seriousness of the attack.
Upon handing out the punishments for Filipo the Judge was also stated to have said “you have the opportunity to demonstrate that you are worthy of being a professional rugby player”, according to Mellissa Nightingale (2016). So, did the rugby potential of Filipo give him a ‘get out of jail free card’?
If we look at the Filipo incident through an instinct theorist lens we may believe that Filipo has a ‘killer instinct’ and rugby can act as a catharsis for his violent acts, or a place for him to release his violent tendencies in a socially accepted context. This lens may have been what the judge looked through when deciding the final sentence for Filipo and when he decided to comment on Filipo one day still becoming a professional rugby player. Instinct theory is often used to justify violent behaviour and phrases such as ‘it’s primal’ or ‘it’s in his blood’ can be used as complimentary rather than critical. However, this catharsis may not have been the best decision as some research suggests that people are more likely to be violent in society if involved in violent or aggressive sport.
I feel only time will tell if the judges possible instinct theory decision on Filipo’s future was the right choice, would a harsher sentence have helped to teach him more about his wrongdoings or does he need rugby as a safety valve?
Briefly before I classified Filipo’s violent act as ‘hostile aggression’, the reason I stated it as such is because his primary intention was to inflict physical harm on the victims, he was not motivated by rewards such as money or social approval but if he was I would classify it as instrumental aggression.
If we take a different approach to violence in sport and look through the lens of a social learning theorist we can understand that the beliefs of what we perceive to be both formal/informal norms in society can be learnt through observations and experiences we have in life. Sport (especially rugby in New Zealand) is viewed as a ‘separate reality’ (an example of ‘seperate reality’ is within a boxing match you get points for punching the other person but in reality, this is illegal to do on the streets). Because of this as a social learning theorist when we encounter violence in a sporting environment we may began to think this is a norm since on the sports field you do not really get punished in comparison to reality (jail sentences), this could be a factor between many elite athletes on and off field violent acts.
So, the question is where do we draw the line? How can one act in a sporting environment that is illegal to do in say a shopping mall not be punished the same way just because it is done during the 80 minutes on the field where everything outside of the boundaries of the pitch is forgotten? Also, do we let elite athletes get away with just a telling off in NZ because of the ‘high-profile’ sporting careers they have or could potentially have?
Violence is a ‘touchy subject’ in New Zealand but I believe improvements to how we deal with violent acts on the sporting field as well as sporting athletes committing violent crimes off the field need to be made. What are your thoughts on the issue?
1News. (2016). The moment judge tells disgraced Losi Filipo he isn’t going to jail for brutal attack. Retrieved from https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/watch-moment-judge-tells-disgraced-losi-filipo-he-isnt-going-jail-brutal-attack
Melissa Nightingale. (2016). Wellington rugby player Losi Filipo maintains guilty plea, is sentenced to supervision. Retrieved from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11740453
Ministry of social development. (2017) Family violence statistics. Retrieved from http://areyouok.org.nz/family-violence/statistics/