Domestic Violence Gender Gap and Social Media’s Impact

Domestic violence is an ongoing problem in society. Domestic violence occurs in every country, in every neighborhood, among people of all races, cultures, religions and income levels. Most cases are not reported but this issue is still taken very seriously. When professional athletes’ are accused of this crime, it stirs up much controversy and tough decisions for league leaders to act appropriately. Athletes’ are seen as role models for youth throughout the world and looked upon to set positive examples for kids.

Ray Rice, former running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was convicted of domestic violence against his fiancé last month and was suspended by the NFL, which resulted in a Twitter uproar to the way the National Football League handled the case. In contrast, United States soccer player Hope Solo was accused of domestic violence last summer against her nephew and half sister yet still continues to play soccer.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 1.53.00 PM Rice (left) and Solo (right)

Social Media in particular, is a public way for users to share their thoughts and feelings about current events and pop culture. When the Ray Rice incident hit the sports world, Twitter users quickly took sides and pressured the NFL to act appropriately to what they believed was a just punishment. There was very little social media attention to Hope Solo’s domestic violence allegations compared to Ray Rice. Social media directly influences what decisions are made in high profile cases such as Ray Rice and Hope Solo. Are these decisions correct? When put under pressure, sometimes people make decisions to make others satisfied. League officials in this situation make quick decisions that doesn’t directly show how they really interpreted the situation. 

According to Safehorizon, one in every four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Most domestic violence cases are not reported. However, domestic violence can be caught on tape in public. NFL player Ray Rice punched his fiancé, now wife Janay Palmer in the fact in Atlantic City in February. Rice was charged with simple assault charges along with Palmer. This was all caught on tape, which wasn’t released to the public until September 8th. The video below was posted by TMZ.

Rice and the NFL took heavy criticism in the weeks following the announcement of his two-game suspension for this incident. The NFL never saw the video until September 8th when TMZ posted it. The Ravens then released Rice on September 8th after this video went viral. Social media had an outcry of posts, tweets, and comments of the whole situation. According to, Janay Rice posted a statement on her Instagram account the day following the video release. She said, “reality is a nightmare in itself” and criticized the media for causing pain to her family. “To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing,” she wrote.

This relates to a popular hash tag that was used on Twitter about domestic violence after this incident went public. In 140 characters or less, messages on Twitter from abused women went public with the twitter hash tag “#whyistayed.” Women expressed the reasons why they stayed with their significant other after he abused them. Could this hash tag have also put extra pressure on NFL officials to feel sympathy or a make a quick decision?

On September 9th, Rice made his first public announcement saying “I’m just holding strong for my wife and kids, that’s all I can do right now. According to, The Ravens owner also made a public announcement apologizing saying, “Yesterday morning Sept 8, all of us saw the video from inside the elevator. It is violent and horrifying. I immediately came to the office and called a meeting with Dick Cass, Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and Kevin Byrne. The meeting was relatively short. The decision to let Ray Rice go was unanimous. Seeing that video changed everything for Rice. We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously. We didn’t and we were wrong.” Social media was bombarded with all sorts of posts and comments on this incident. One tweet posted said “TMZ ruined Ray Rice’s career.” Many people posted how the NFL didn’t find out about the video before and why the disciplinary action took so long. These tweets are the reasons why the NFL was forced to make a quick decision once the video was released. If the video was never released by TMZ, Rice would have been playing and the Twitter uproar would have never existed.

When the subject of domestic violence comes up in conversation most people think of Ray Rice, because the situation between him and his wife that has just been blown up all over social media. However maybe even a bigger topic for discussion should be Hope Solo, a female U.S. soccer. She is one of the most recognized female soccer players in the world. In early September she broke the women’s U.S. soccer record for shutouts at 72 in the U.S. win over Mexico (USA today). What some people may not know is that Solo is facing two charges of Domestic violence for beating her sister and 17-year-old nephew at a party. The police report read, “Hope was intoxicated and upset, her nephew bleeding in a torn T-shirt. Her sister, the boy’s mother, was also visibly injured. The teen said Solo called him “too fat” to be an athlete. They asked her to leave, but she stayed, they said, “circling like a shark.” The boy ultimately tried to fight her off with a broken BB gun and a broom. After Solo’s half-sister got her out of the house, she allegedly hopped a fence and re-entered through a sliding door.” (Jezebel) On the two misdemeanor charges of domestic violence Hope plead not guilty.

Even though this occurred back in June it is just now seeing a lot more hype because of the Ray Rice situation. People are asking the question why she is allowed to play soccer, especially on a national stage, where she is representing the United States. Solo is a role model for many young kids throughout the world and by not suspending her, at least until her court date,  is setting a bad example for youngsters everywhere. This story never really gained much attention early on and a lot of people did not take it nearly as seriously as other domestic violence stories. There were a lot of tweets that just went on to joking about the matter such as this Star Wars one:

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 2.41.41 PMThis tweet differs greatly from tweets like this about the Rice incident.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.10.46 AMMany players from the NFL among other leagues tweeted how disgusted they were about this incident. If people, including other female soccer players really took to places like twitter and Instagram and voiced their opinion on why Solo should not be allowed to keep playing soccer then the National Women’s Soccer League would have been forced to carry out a least a suspension. With a suspension we are sure her endorsements would not want to be supportive of someone who is suspended for domestic violence so they would have dropped her as sponsor for their company. Although the publicity on social media has not been there, the way that the National Women’s Soccer Leagues has reacted is in no way firm enough. There is no reason that someone who participated in a crime as atrocious as domestic violence should be allowed to play at a national level in any sport. In this case, social media wasn’t pressuring the soccer league to make any decisions. Who knows what the outcome was if the leader of the league was faced with pressures from social media.

When it comes to the issue of Domestic abuse in sports, Ray Rice has been in front and center. As stated earlier, Ray Rice unquestionably struck his then fiancé in the face on an elevator. After hearing of the allegations, before any court ruling or anything came down, the NFL commissioner suspended the Ravens running back for 2 games. This outraged public outcry quickly as people all over social media came out yelling at the commissioner for such a small suspension. During the same month, the NFL commissioner suspended a player for the entire year for failing his drug test, for smoking marijuana. That caused people to say that the NFL must think that beating your wife is not nearly as big of a deal as someone smoking marijuana. As we talked about the video earlier, soon as it was released there was much more of an outcry for Ray Rice to lose his job. After the tweets continued to pour on and the media erupted, within a few short hours of the video being released, Ray Rice had his contract terminated by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended by the NFL indefinitely. Then we have Hope Solo, who as we stated earlier had domestic abuse by beating her sister and nephew. Somehow the accusations came out against her for this crime, and there was just a small chatter about it. I believe they may have talked about it on ESPN for about 5 minutes as opposed to Ray Rice getting hours of coverage.

They talk about an image and being role models, Ray Rice plays for 1 of 32 NFL teams, and Hope Solo is currently on the 1 National USA woman’s soccer team. I believe that they are both role models, and someone playing on the National team is obviously one of the best in the world at what she does. I wonder why the public outcry skipped for Hope. Is it because she is a woman? Or maybe is it because she is white? Men have always said she is an attractive woman, so maybe they thought she could not cause a lot of harm. I have seen Hope Solo many times in the national spotlight and can say that she is a woman that probably has much more strength than people are giving her credit for. I think the punishment should be just as equal for Hope Solo as it was for Ray Rice. U.S. culture does not value soccer players as much as we value football players. This makes soccer players less in the spotlight than football players. Although soccer players are not in the spotlight like NFL players may be, the National Soccer League should suspend Solo until the accusations are resolved. This relates to Adrian Peterson not being able tom play football anymore for being accused of beating his son. Social media differentiates from that standpoint with this tweet by Briggs Porter on September 24th:

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 1.50.15 PMThat is a true statement, but that would also be true for Ray Rice. Yes there was a video for Ray Rice, but the courts had not indicted him yet, so why did everyone want him to lose his job before the legal system played its part? Hope Solo is actually in a similar situation that many people may not have even seen, or heard about. There are photos that indicate that her sister and nephew were physically assaulted the day that she was arrested for domestic violence.

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 2.53.09 PMScreen Shot 2014-10-09 at 2.53.33 PMWhen you connect the pictures to the police report it is hard to believe no action has been taken by either the Women’s National Soccer League or by team USA. These pictures are of Solo’s nephew and sister-in-law after the alleged assault enforced on them. The pictures show bruising on her nephew and small cuts on her sister-in-law.  Although pictures may not be as effective as a video it is certainly the next best thing, especially in a world of social media. In a nation where we want equality between men and women, we have to have the same punishments for both sexes.

Along with the gender inequalities of domestic violence in sports, as stated earlier race can also play a role whether we directly notice it or not. In a league where roughly 70% of its players are African American, which is ran and coached by nearly all white men, how can you not think of race in these types of situations? There has never been a black commissioner or a black owner in the NFL. When situations like Race Rice’s domestic violence cases arise, it’s difficult to not think how the outcomes would have been if the player was white or if there were more minorities running the league. Bonilla-Silva says in Racism without Racists, “minimization of racism is a frame that suggest discrimination is no longer a central factor affecting minorities’ life chances” (Bonilla-Silva 29). If this were true, why aren’t there any black owners or barely any black coaches? These owners make insane amounts of money off of their players. Social media outrages about Ray Rice really pressured the league to act quickly and give the right punishment at the same time as being fair. But as stated earlier, was the punishment given after the video was released really the NFL commissioner’s felt? They were basically forced to act how everyone wanted them to act. They may have not banned Rice, but they suspended him from the league indefinitely. This relates to NBA Player Paul George defending Rice but being forced to delete his tweets and apologize because social media and his staff were not pleased with his comments. We think these factors influence social media response to the event but are not sure about the exact influence on the outcomes. We just need to be aware of these issues when we talk about how the media and sports leagues address domestic violence. When something like Rice’s incident happens in the NFL, players from other leagues are also effected and sometimes reach out on social media like George did below.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.03.15 AMScreen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.03.29 AMComparing Georges tweet to other tweets, there’s a very large gap with how people feel about domestic violence.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.16.55 AMThis also seems to be true with prejudice; NBA owners for example, after years and years of running a team with mostly African American players, get caught making racist comments. When people of power are forced to make statements to the public, like Twitter for example, we usually don’t get a true and honest feel on what their beliefs are. All it takes is one tweet, or one wrong comment to someone, and everything changed upon how they are looked at.

Hope Solo, who is a white female, had barely any Twitter or social media outrage when her situation became public. Still playing and still having her sponsor is directly related to social media’s lack of outrage. What if she was a black soccer player? If Twitter would have blown up about her incident, this would have pressured the United States’s Woman Soccer Team to act quickly which more than likely would have been a suspension. Though both athletes’ play contact sports, this in no way justifies their actions. Though there were few tweets about both incidents together (rarely any on Solo), some did side with the NFL and Rice in that Solo should have received similar punishment, such as the tweet by Flores.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 1.51.40 PMAnother tweet had a more general approach to the situation with this tweet.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 1.52.16 PMWhether what side you decide to take, we can all agree that domestic violence is a very serious issue and needs to be handled with severe punishments. Though we think we are just tweeting and we won’t be heard, this is not always the case. As Boyd said in Its Complicated, “social media is part of everyday life,” (Boyd 8) and Twitter is used to express feelings and emotions publically. When these situations happen, social media erupts with people taking sides and expressing their feelings/emotions, which do put tremendous pressure on league officials.

In conclusion, social media directly influences what decisions are made in high profile cases such as Ray Rice and Hope Solo. Whether it has to do with gender, race, or a combination of both, Twitter users put pressure on those in charge to make quick decisions on how to handle the situations discussed above of Ray Rice and Hope Solo. Social media is a part of everyday life that is a place for users to express what they feel on almost anything you can think of. When social media sites are public like Twitter, we see users express opinions and feelings about gender, race, and endless other topics. When this pressure is put on these people by social media, they make quick decisions that may not show exactly how they feel.

“A Complete Timeline of the Ray Rice Assault Case.” N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2014.

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. “Racism without Racists.” The Central Frames of Color-Blind Racism (2010): 3rd edition. PDF file.

Boyd, Danah. “Its Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.” Introduction (2014). PDF file.

“Domestic Violence: Statistics & Facts.” Safe Horizon. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2014.–facts-52.html

“Hope Solo sets U.S. shutout record while awaiting domestic violence trial.” USA Today. N.p., 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 2 Oct. 2014


Ryan, Erin. “Hope Solo is Sorry About That Whole Domestic Violence Thing.”Jezebel. N.p., 27 June 2014. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.



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