Research shows link between major sports events and increasing levels of domestic violence
Many of us have witnessed how masses of lively and unwaveringly devoted sports fans can quickly become a forest fire: wild, unruly, and uncontrollable. From the cars and garbage cans set ablaze after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins in 2011, to the vandalism in Toronto after the Raptors won the 2019 NBA championship, it is no secret that when tensions between sports fans run high, violence can result. Some research also shows that this violence isn’t restricted only to public vandalism and disturbance — violence applies to the home as well.
According to CNBC, the 2023 Super Bowl football match was the third most-watched television program in U.S. history. The annual event is one of advertising’s biggest platforms, and this means that every year, companies scramble and compete to present their products to millions of people. A commercial by Tubi, a video streaming service app, took centre stage in the online discourse surrounding the day of the big game, and their fame wasn’t all for positive reasons.
Tubi’s 15-second advertisement starts by showing two sports commentators discussing the game, making it look as if the commercial break had just concluded. Suddenly, we see a menu showing an array of different TV apps pulling up on screen, as if we are watching someone browse. That “someone” selects Tubi and pulls up the film Mr. & Mrs. Smith before Tubi’s production logo shows up and signals the end of the commercial.
The commercial fooled some people a little too well, causing some momentary confusion about who “switched off” the big game. It generated laughs for some but wasn’t very funny for others. In a now-deleted post on Reddit, titled “I broke up with my boyfriend over the Tubi Super Bowl Commercial,” a woman described how her boyfriend flew off the handle when he saw the commercial and assumed that she was the one interrupting the game.
In the post, she said that he “began screaming at me violently, calling me things that I don’t even want to write down.” Even when she tried to explain that it was just a commercial, he allegedly ended up punching a hole in the wall of their living room. Though he “awkwardly apologized” afterwards, she said that she clearly saw the red flags in her boyfriend’s behaviour and left the next morning to stay with her parents.
Others have also shared their extreme reactions to the advertisement on Twitter. Some users’ first reactions included feelings of rage, yelling, and the spewing of threats and abuse at those unfortunate enough to be in the room with them. While the tweets were most likely written in jest, these casual confessions do raise questions and concerns about a possible connection between the outcomes of sporting events and instances of domestic violence.
A 2013 study from Lancaster University sought to uncover whether the FIFA World Cup, when watched remotely via television, could be correlated with an increase in domestic abuse incidents. The study found significant results: on a match day, domestic abuse increased by 26 per cent when the English national team won and by 38 per cent when the national team lost.
According to a paper from the University of Calgary, researchers found that domestic violence hotlines saw a 15 per cent increase in calls when the Calgary Stampeders competed against their major rivals, the Edmonton Elks which were then called the Eskimos. And when the Calgrary Stampeders participated in Grey Cup games, the championship game of the Canadian Football League, there was a 40 per cent increase in reports of domestic violence.
No situation excuses the physical or mental abuse of others and we need to keep advocating for victims of domestic violence and their safety.