Members of Male Athletes Against Violence at UMaine hold up MAAV posters.
College athletes are under scrutiny on and off their respective playing fields. When they are involved with crime, people take notice.
The NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct is developing a strategy to help universities better understand the nature of violence on campuses and how athletics could play a role in prevention.
The group discussed the topic at an NCAA-sponsored think tank in October, which also included subject experts from organizations outside of the NCAA.
Debbie Wilson, the chair of the committee, said the think tank was not precipitated by a particular act of violence, but said the committee is concerned for the overall nature of the problem and that athletes have been involved in violent incidents in the past.
“This is a societal issue,” Wilson said. “This is much broader than just athletics. Athletics may be able to play a very positive and supportive role on campus.”
Wilson, who is an associate athletics director for academic services at George Mason University, said the committee is focusing its efforts on four main overlapping topics: research, collaboration, best practices and terminology and scope.
The committee will research the nature of violence that is occurring on campuses and how it is impacting athletic programs and universities. It will then decide what the best practices are in collaboration with the institutions to prevent campus violence.
“We would be encouraging institutions to reach the athletes as a specific audience so they understand the importance of the personal cost and cost to society when people are involved in these acts of violence,” she said. “It could also be a cost to the institution or athletic program.”
Some universities already have anti-violence programs in place. At the University of Maine, a group of varsity athletes works to raise awareness of issues surrounding men, masculinity and violence.
Sandra Caron, professor of family relations and human sexuality at UMaine, created the peer education program Male Athletes Against Violence (MAAV) in the fall of 2004. MAAV is made up of eight male student athletes, all from different sports, who must apply and be admitted into the program.
Spencer Wood, a senior member of the university’s football team and the student coordinator for MAAV, said the group strives to complete a minimum of five awareness activities each semester, including its baked goods giveaways, delivering a PowerPoint presentation and tabling in popular places on campus like the Memorial Union.
The group’s PowerPoint “Reel Men vs. Real Men” compares how masculinity and violence are linked to peoples’ perceptions of athletes involved in contact sports on the field and on television as aggressive, violent and tough, Wood said.
“We’re showing people that we care about anti-violence and violence against women,” he said. “We’re showing our community that we are only aggressive on our field of play. Off the field, we’re working to break stereotypes and to empower people to question violence.”
MAAV’s most recent outreach strategy was having members of the football team wear white ribbons on the back of their helmets for the last three games of the season, he said. They were supporting the White Ribbon Campaign, which started in Canada in 1991 and fights against domestic violence and violence toward women.
MAAV member and UMaine basketball player Raheem Singleton hands out cookies he baked to promote anti-violence.
Wilson said the institutions would ultimately decide what violence prevention strategies they want to carry out, but the committee hopes to guide them in the process.
“Our role is really to help our member institutions better understand what they can do in their own particular environment,” she said. “We are making recommendations and giving suggestions. We would be serving as a resource and guide as they address this issue.”
Diana Alacron, a 21-year-old student recruitment assistant for the University of Florida football team, said she thinks it’s good the NCAA wants to use athletics to address the issue because athletes get a lot of attention.
However, the fourth-year engineering major said she thinks schools should be cautious in how they use their athletes to assist with education efforts. Athletes’ outreach strategies should differ among peers when they reach out to younger audiences, she said.
“It’s a great idea, but I think they should deliver their message in a way where it doesn’t seem like athletes are more trained on the topic than the rest of the student body,” she said. “As a student, I don’t think I would like an athlete to tell me what to do. I might think, ‘Why are you more knowledgeable than me?’”
Alacron said she thinks the members of Florida’s football and men’s basketball teams would be the best influencers to help with education efforts because they get the most attention.
“They should lead by example,” she said. “It’s kind of like the cool kids in high school—everyone wants to do what they want to do.”
Powered by Facebook Comments