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It’s been two weeks since Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius was charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The circumstances that led to the tragedy are still under investigation. The case has prompted a broader discussion about the problems of other athletes, and the guns and mental trauma that may lead to domestic violence. Lance Dixon reports.
Whether Oscar Pistorius purposely intended to kill his girlfriend or not remains uncertain for now.
But, his case raises greater questions about other high-profile athletes involved in incidents of violent
behavior. Sports psychologist Sara Hickmann has worked with the New York Jets and she says that if
athletes are more prone to these behaviors it might have to do with their celebrity status. (:20)
SARA HICKMANN: “It’s more about abusing power and control, and the mentality of, “I own you, you
are here to serve me. I need to call the shots I’m going to do things how I want to. If you push back I’m
going to inflict pain on you and put you back in your place.” (:16)
There are plenty of examples of athletes involved in violence off the field. Like former New England
Patriots receiver, and occasional reality TV star, Chad Johnson, who arrested for allegedly head-
butting his wife. Or Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall. He has a history of disputes with former
girlfriends and even his wife allegedly leading to stabbing and choking incidents and more. Nearly all
the charges in these cases were eventually not filed, dropped or reduced. Hickmann says that kind of
impunity is not uncommon. (:29)
“I think often times the consequences are not appropriate or proportionate to the offense and it’s
harder for them to learn, oh this is probably not a good idea, because they haven’t had the same
consequences as the average person.” (:15)
If the athletes own guns the stakes are higher. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was ordered to
give up his seven guns last year after he allegedly punched his girlfriend and dragged her on the ground.
In a separate incident only 11 days later, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his
girlfriend and then committed suicide. Hickmann says that when players she works with are charged
with domestic violence, specific questions arise. (:25)
“Do you have a gun? Do you have a weapon? Do you feel that’s the best thing for you right now while
you’re working through the way you feel about your relationship?” (:08)
In suicide cases, brain trauma can be a factor. As it was with retired linebacker Junior Seau who
committed suicide last May. He was found to be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy or
CTE, a disease caused by multiple blows to the head and concussive damage. CTE expert, Dr. Julian
Bailes, says other problems are usually involved when CTE leads to suicide. (:22)
“Those problems are often failed businesses, failed marriages, failed finances, and then it goes on to
include things like depression and often alcohol or substance abuse, cognitive impairment and many
end in suicide.” (:15)
Hickmann notes that the competitive nature of sports can lead to aggressive behavior off the field, but
Bailes says that that competitive nature is not exclusive to athletes. (:09)
“Everybody who’s in a competitive environment probably feels certain pressures and stresses and a
need to perform. So I think that regardless of what sport you’re in or even what profession you’re in.
Some of these are natural aspects of human behavior.” (:15)
We won’t know for sure what Pistorius did that night until his trial begins in June. But, we do know he
was extremely competitive as a double-amputee and that’s why he was celebrated by so many.
Lance Dixon, Columbia Radio News. (:14)