Trevone Boykin isn't the first NFL player accused of domestic violence — and he probably won't be the last

Elise Solé
Yahoo Lifestyle
NFL player Trevone Boykin was cut from the Seattle Seahawks for allegedly breaking his girlfriend’s jaw. (Photo: Getty Images)
NFL player Trevone Boykin was cut from the Seattle Seahawks for allegedly breaking his girlfriend’s jaw. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks cut quarterback Trevone Boykin for allegedly breaking his girlfriend’s jaw, raising questions about the link between football and domestic violence.

“I understand the Seahawks’ decision to release me,” Boykin, 24, said in a statement obtained by NFL.com. “The story that was reported casts a bad light on the organization and on me. I want to be clear that the story is false.”

Boykin’s girlfriend, Shabrika Bailey, 26, told Dallas TV station WFAA that she was at Boykin’s Mansfield, Texas, home on March 20 when they began arguing over a text message on her phone.

“So he goes into a choke. I remember him choking me and I’m trying to calm him down. And I just couldn’t. And I blacked out. I just couldn’t calm him down at all,” Bailey said. “The pressure was just hard. The pressure got hard to where I just remember just collapsing completely. And I just woke up in a puddle of blood on the kitchen floor. My whole right side was full of blood on the kitchen floor.”

She added that after Boykin dragged her to a bathtub and removed her clothes to clean her, he drove her to Dallas Regional Medical Center. When the staff began asking questions, Boykin left the premises.

Bailey had a broken jaw and was released from the hospital on March 24. Police are investigating the case.

The couple has had prior legal troubles. In 2017, they were arrested outside a Dallas bar when the car Bailey was driving crashed into a wall and hit eight pedestrians, an accident she blamed in part on Boykin. “He leaned over, attacked me, and choked me unconscious, which made the car go into drive to reverse,” she told WFAA.

Boykin stands in a long line of NFL players accused of involvement in domestic violence incidents.

Earlier this month, Oakland Raiders player Aldon Smith was released from the team for allegedly throwing his fiancée around a room and biting her wrist, according to ABC News. In 2014, then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended from the NFL (and ultimately reinstated) after two videos went viral depicting him punching his now-wife, Janay Palmer, in the face and dragging her unconscious from an elevator in an Atlantic City casino.

That same year, according to the New York Post, Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer, 25, was arrested on suspicion of the aggravated assault of his wife and of preventing her from dialing 911.

In 2014, NFL player Ray Rice knocked his now-wife, Janay Palmer, unconscious, as seen in viral video footage. (Photo: Getty Images)
In 2014, NFL player Ray Rice knocked his now-wife, Janay Palmer, unconscious, as seen in viral video footage. (Photo: Getty Images)

Science has started to address the suggested link between professional football and domestic violence, but there’s no clear consensus on whether football makes men violent. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice found that while NFL players are arrested less often for property or public-order crime, violent crime committed by players spiked above the national average during six of the 14 years studied. According to the study, “Contractual incentives may have played a role in the rise in some forms of crime in 2006 after players could no longer lose their bonuses if they committed illegal acts.”

Geert Dhondt, an assistant economics professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the Huffington Post that the results were questionable because of the income gap between professional athletes and the general population. He also pointed out that the study focused on players’ six-year careers versus those of the general public, which had no time parameters. 

One study conducted by Boston University has linked domestic violence rates to the prevalence of brain injuries among football players. It found that 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains revealed a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which causes impaired judgment, impulse control issues, and aggression.

Study author Ann McKee, M.D., a professor of neurology and pathology, did not respond Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. But she told CNN, “There’s no question that there’s a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease. And we urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma.”

Conversely, a 2015 study published by St. John Fisher College found that only 15.7 percent of arrests among NFL players were the result of assault or domestic violence, with the most frequent arrests drug- and alcohol-related. The study noted, however, that the results were “not significant enough to make a determination or draw a conclusion if there is a direct relationship between the type of sport and player convicted of a crime involving bodily harm.”

Complicating matters for scientists is that the FBI doesn’t classify whether violent crimes are the result of domestic violence.

The issue of whether NFL athletes are more violent than others is an oversimplification, says Mitch Abrams, a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology and leader of the organization’s Anger & Violence Special Interest Group.

“Domestic violence is a serious problem, and it’s not correct to assume that a percentage of athletes won’t become perpetrators,” Abrams tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “But the issue is less about whether the NFL ‘makes’ athletes violent and more a culture of toxic masculinity that teaches men to hide their emotions, develop misogynistic attitudes, and ignores the concept of consent.”

According to Abrams, for young athletes, practice is often valued more than education, and group mentalities that depersonalize players hold them less accountable for their actions. By the time boys enter the NFL, many feel untouchable.

“Many groups with ultra-masculine environments — law enforcement, fraternities, military — carry high rates of domestic violence,” he adds. “Does throwing a ball really increase the odds of violence?”

Abrams also points to flaws in CTE studies, some of which are nonrandomized and identify only those who self-report brain injuries. “However, there are many violent people without brain injuries — we only point to them when sports are involved,” he says. “It can be difficult to know whether a concussion makes one violent; for example, [whether the late NFL player] Aaron Hernandez was before he played football.”

“There are many violent athletes, but we also live in a violent society,” says Abrams. “We need to better screen and treat athletes before they’re recruited.”

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