Let us suppose that a very large man—we’ll call him Chris—runs full speed at another man, who we’ll call Alex. Chris launches himself at Alex headfirst, using his arms to carry Alex to the ground, where Chris lands on top of him. Wow. That sounds like assault and battery, right?
Or what if Floyd repeatedly uses his fists to pummel Conor in the face and head, his ultimate goal being to beat Conor so badly that Conor can’t stand up again? Also assault and battery.
Except… not. Because if we stick jerseys on the first two guys and gloves on the second two, we have a different story. We have professional sports. And in the extremely unlikely event that Chris or Floyd were prosecuted for his actions, he’d have a good defense: consent.
The general idea behind the defense of consent is to avoid criminal liability when the “victim” has agreed to be victimized. And there are some interesting twists to this defense. For one, the victim has to be capable of granting consent, which means he can’t be too young, too mentally disabled, or too intoxicated. The consent must be entirely voluntary and not due to threats. Consent is also generally not allowed as a defense in homicide cases, although the idea of assisted suicide has changed some views on that point. And the actions taken must be within the scope of the consent.
That last point has led to some interesting cases. Several hockey players have been convicted for exceeding the game’s permissible boundaries and attacking opposing players. But the extra violence has to be truly excessive. For instance, Mike Tyson was never criminally prosecuted for biting off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear. This could make a really interesting plot point, and it’s one I haven’t seen explored in fiction. So have at it!