Divorce & Professional Sports

Aug 8, 2012 by

A recent article by Mark Kreidler at ESPN made a very interesting point about professional athletes and their chances of success in marriage; “In the world of professional sports divorce is the norm.” The article points out that being a famous athlete and being a husband or father at the same time is no easy feat. As a result, professional athletes get divorced much more frequently than the general public and that is saying a lot when the national divorce rate is hovering around 50 percent.

Reports from both the New York Times and Sports Illustrated have estimated that the divorce rate for professional athletes is somewhere around 60 percent and may even be as high as 80 percent. With figures like that, it is only surprising when an athlete has a marriage that actually lasts.

Infidelity makes the biggest splash in the news of course, and the Tiger Woods saga certainly bears that out, but money, fame, and travel issues also contribute to the marriage problems pro athletes face. As Kreidler noted, there are a lot of reasons why athletes fail at marriage; some got rich too quickly to manage their fame, others simply like being single and playing the field, many choose unsuitable partners and some get married when they are very young and inexperienced.

What is common to all is the stress that constant travel puts on a marriage. The life of a pro athlete is usually not a normal family situation and the pressure of dealing with life on the road with odd hours and the endless hotel rooms makes things worse. Of course, there are always groupies and hangers-on following the biggest athletes around and the combination of money and constant temptation can not be considered a good mix for fidelity. Compounding the situation, once an athlete’s marriage starts to flounder they are unlikely to drop their sports career to work on saving the relationship. More often they double down and throw themselves more completely into their work while ignoring their troubled marriage relationship.

It is unfortunate that the price of sporting fame carries such liability for marriages today, and that the public has become very accustomed to their favorite athletes getting divorced with regularity. There are some pro athletes who do enjoy stable marriages of course, but they are definitely not the norm in the country today.


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