Full disclosure: I pretty much care less about sports than I care about well, anything.
However, when the Adonis-like worship of athletes trumps the rights of rape victims, I think we all need to be concerned. Starting in high school, elite athletes have their egos inflated and are basically told over and over that the rules don’t apply to them. Sometimes–really most often–this ends with a college professor giving an extension or completely disregarding attendance rules, etc. Nothing actually harmful, albeit a weird form of nepotism, but mostly innocent.
But sometimes, in cases like Penn State, Steubenville and now possibly Vanderbilt, we’re faced with a group of people (not one person) who choose to look the other way rather than incriminate the athletically elite. In rape charges. This is rape culture. When a large number of the student body rallies on behalf of a man who knew about the rape of children and chose not to intervene, simply because he has a legacy as a sports coach, this is rape culture. When we blame the victim for getting drunk and parting with unruly high school boys, this is rape culture. When coming forward as a rape victim is more shameful than being accused as a rapist, this is rape culture.
Sports cannot matter this much. Violence is not the ultimate expression of masculinity.
Now, I’m certainly no ESPN commentator, but in addition to being incredibly damaging and cruel, on a far less important scale, don’t these accusations not hurt the integrity of the sport and the reputation of athletes as a whole? Honestly, most athletes are good people; most people are good people. Some athletes are exceptional people and I want to be clear– I am in no way trying to say sports players are more likely than non-athletes to commit sexual assault. What I am saying is that someone’s ability to throw a ball or strategize a zone defense does not come close to being equal to someone’s moral obligation to do everything in his or hew power stop sexual assault.
Humanity has to be first.