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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Assault > Why Aren’t On-Field Sports Brawls Considered Assault or Battery?

Why Aren’t On-Field Sports Brawls Considered Assault or Battery?


On-field brawls aren’t uncommon in professional or amateur sports. Football players take a few swings, baseball players charge the mound, and even hockey players throw down the gloves. Players are ejected and some suspended. While it’s certainly an expensive punishment for the players involved, it’s not exactly the same treatment anyone on a public street would be given.

If you notice anything in the statistics, it’s this: professional athletes are very rarely, if ever, arrested for assault or battery for on-field brawls, even though there may be thousands of witnesses to the event. But why? There is no law on the books that says an athlete is above reproach. There are no laws that make an exception for sporting events.


  • During the 2017 football season, three on-field fights broke out on the same day. No one was arrested.
  • Fighting in the 2017-2018 season of the NBA started before the season did, with one Bulls’ player fracturing another’s face. No one was arrested.
  • In a 2018 game between the Red Sox and Yankees, a bench-clearing fight broke out on the field. No one was arrested.

Athletes Consenting to Bodily Harm

It is the very rare case that someone consents to bodily harm. This is an element of assault and battery. The victim did not consent to being physically contacted, and they certainly did not have the assumption that they may be injured. It’s a different case in sports, where players are generally deemed to have consented to physical contact and understand that there is a risk of injury.

There are three requirements that must be present in order to have consented in these circumstances:

  • There can be no consent to serious bodily injury,
  • The risk of harm must be a foreseeable consequence of conduct, and
  • The person must have some type of benefit, like a paycheck, from the consent of such conduct.

Because these requirements are very specific, they only apply in limited and unique circumstances, like athletics.

One of the best examples of a consent to assault and battery is in the world of boxing. These men and women consent to being physically struck multiple times in exchange for a payout.

They accept the risks that these physical contacts bring, and they participate in the sport knowing that they could very well be injured. But does that same implied consent or acceptance extend to sports where people aren’t scoring points by punching each other? The answer is a vague, “sort of.”

Athletes understand that there is a risk of injury when they sign a contract to play a sport. They sign knowing that they may be tackled incorrectly, hit with a baseball or tripped on the basketball court. They also sign acknowledging, whether it’s said or not, that they may be involved in a fight.

As a society, we have come to expect these altercations, maybe even looking forward to them, with no expectation that someone will end up in jail.

Turning Into Battery or Assault

There is one thing that seems to be an exception to the unspoken rule that fighting is okay: Fans being put in danger. ESPN refers to this as the “oh, my god” standard. When a fight spills into the stands and fans of the game are involved or put in danger, criminal charges may be filed against the athletes involved. This has happened in both basketball and hockey.

What tends to happen, though, is that the brawl stays on the field or court. The participants are athletes and sometimes coaches and managers. People get injured and athletes are fined. Some may be suspended for a certain number of games, but they do not routinely see the inside of a courtroom.

In order to be successfully charged and convicted of assault in Georgia, the following elements must be in place:

  • For simple assault, the alleged perpetrator must have been attempting to commit a violent injury upon the victim or had put them in a situation where a reasonable person would have foreseen an injury.
  • For aggravated assault, the alleged perpetrator must have had an intent to rob, rape or murder with a deadly device, object or instrument that is likely to inflict serious bodily injury. A person may also be charged with aggravated assault if they shoot a firearm from a vehicle.

A person convicted of simple assault can spend up to a year in jail, be ordered to pay fines in the amount of $1,000 and be given probation. The person may also have to pay restitution to the victim. If the crime is elevated to a high misdemeanor, the penalties are enhanced.

A simple assault can be elevated depending on the victim and the circumstances of the crime. A person convicted of an aggravated assault is guilty of a felony and can spend up to twenty years in prison, be ordered to pay fines and have to pay restitution to the victim.

Our Atlanta Criminal Defense Attorneys Are Here for You

It’s rare that there are any other circumstances in which someone would not be arrested for assault and battery after striking someone and causing injury. If you have been arrested for assault in Atlanta, you need an experienced attorney on your side.

You are facing serious consequences that may not end after your court sentence has been completed. Reach out to the Atlanta assault and battery attorneys at Hawkins Spizman Fortas today and schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation and learn how we can hep you.

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