Many of us understand and abide by laws which make us a civilized society. Many of these laws are specifically intended to prevent violence amongst citizens. For example assault and battery on a street corner is clearly illegal and easily spotted and charged. How about when there is an assault which takes place in an organized professional sporting event? Many view these events as glorious spectacles where men who have honed skill and agility to the pinnacle of performance in their respective sport compete against other elite athletes. It is the nature in some sports to use aggression, in some cases it is woven into the identity of the sport itself such as football, hockey, and rugby. Violent collisions or altercations are not limited to these sports however. Throughout sporting history there have been series of scuffles and fights spanning the entire sporting spectrum. Is there a possibility that some of these collisions if delivered with malicious intent may be illegal, and subject to criminal charges? Or is the fact that they are within the coliseum walls that are professional sporting venues make them untouchable by law?
In this entry I would like to focus on one incident in particular while still exploring the subject altogether. The incident which has been the focal point of a media fire storm is the hit which Phoenix defensemen Raffi Torres laid onto Chicago winger Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the NHL opening round playoff series. The hit left Hossa motionless laying on the ice in front of thousands of hometown fans. For anyone who saw the hit in real time it remains vivid how bone crushing the hit was. It was clear that it was in no shape or form a hockey play. Hossa was attempting to skate back towards the puck, while Torres charged directly towards the defenseless winger and blindsided him with a vicious hit. Play came to halt as referees realized a serious injury had taken place.
The aftermath of that hit has defined the entire series. While clearly biased due to their affiliation to the team, most Chicago media outlets reported the hit as malicious, violent, and having no place in sports. I cannot help but to feel the same way. Seeing Torres leap into the air and lower his shoulder directly into the head of Hossa felt like watching an assault. The victim in this assault was a professional athlete at the hands of another. The NHL discipline committee dished out a shocking 25 game suspension to the Phoenix defensemen. This move sparked great debate amongst sport fans. Myself, I must agree with Chicago Superintendent Garry McCarthy who was at the game and in an interview with CSN Chicago stated that he believed the actions by Raffi Torres were “borderline criminal conduct.” He also stated that after the hit Torres cursed at fans as well as pointed his hockey stick at them. I understand this took place during a notorious hard hitting sporting contest, but the actions of this individual to me are truly sickening. This is only due to the consideration that the individual on the receiving end of the hit had his neck stabilized and was taken off the ice in a stretcher.
This is where I would ask my fellow classmates as future criminal justice professionals, would you press criminal charges on a professional athlete under these circumstances?