Consider this infamous example when Zidane headbutted an opponent in the 2006 world cup. He got a red card, but if he'd done a similar thing while walking down the street, he might have ended up in a police station.

Why the double standard? Is there some legal convention that being assaulted is a hazard of playing any contact sport? That would make some sense in e.g. boxing, but makes no sense in association football, where this behaviour is clearly against the rules.

1 Answer 1


In the U.S. at least, there is an assumed risk you acknowledge and consent to when you put on your professional athletic team uniform and walk onto the field. The principle of assumption of risk applies outside of sports, as well, but it is unique in sports.


A participant in an active sport breaches a legal duty of care to other participants only if the participant intentionally injures another player, engages in conduct so reckless to be totally outside the range of ordinary activity involved in the sport, or fails to use care not to increase the risk of a participant over and above those ordinarily in the sport. Knight v. Jewett, 3 Cal. 4th 296, 315-16, 320-21 (1992).

Although this doesn't speak to the Zidane incident specifically, the Zidane incident didn't end up with him simply getting a red card. He was banned for three games, too. Obviously, still not the same as if he did it to a guy on the street. The player he headbutted was punished, too, by the way.

  • What part of that definition doesn't apply? Is FIFA punishment legally relevant under German(?) law?
    – user4460
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 17:14
  • 100% of that definition doesn't apply because that's U.S. law, just an example. However, according to pascalpolar.be/site/oeuvresview.php?no_inv=musa-01-18, it is largely that such things that occur within sports are handled within sports, prosecutors stay out of it.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 18:52

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