Trigger Warning: This post covers instances of sexual assault and rape.
As regular readers know, I did not watch the Super Bowl. This was because of my moral objections to supporting a serial assaulter and all-around asshole like Ben Roethlisberger. Luckily, he and the Steelers lost to the Green Bay Packers, so all is right in the world. Right? Well, not quite.
Turns out that the Packers were no saints either. This summer, police were called to a resort that housed several Green Bay Packers players in response to two women who accused the men of holding them down while multiple players sexually assaulted them. The players: linebackers Brad Jones and Clay Matthews, guard Josh Sitton, safety Khalil Jones, fullback Korey Hall, backup quarterback Matt Flynn and cornerback Brandon Underwood. The women later changed their story, and all players but Underwood were cleared of charges. Underwood is still under investigation, though charges seem unlikely to actually be pressed for similar reasons as Roethlisberger. It is a case of he said/she said, and our society loves to side with the rich, famous man over rape victims.
So maybe neither team was worth supporting in the Super Bowl. With pro sports full of bad examples, maybe I should turn to amateurs? There is a great deal more purity there, right? Because everyone plays for the love of the game instead of money. Right?
Of course not. That would be silly to expect more from college or high school. In fact, this Monday, I found these two articles from SI.com in my RSS reader. They both are equally depressing.
While the first article title doesn’t tell you this, the OSU football recruit is avoiding charges of sexual assaulting a 15-year old girl. The second says a lot, but it doesn’t mention this happened at a party with witnesses standing nearby and passively letting it happen. At least Darrell Williams is getting charged, which is a nice change of pace. Following the track record of above, I do not have high hopes of it going very far.
The point of all this? Sports empowers men to demean, objectify, assault and rape women. More than any social construct I am a part of, sports are a tool of male privilege, and football is the worst of the lot, with basketball not far behind. This hostility toward women happens at all levels, from professionals all the way down to high school kids. I know this personally; I have sat quietly in those locker rooms and listened to terrible views of women espoused by my teammates. I did nothing.
Since then, I have contributed to the problem, with my continued support of the men’s sports these athletes play, I have helped empower them. So when they do terrible things with that power, I am responsible. It is partially my burden. Still, I have done nothing.
Why not? I love sports. From football to hockey, from basketball to tennis, I will watch just about every competitive sport out there. Anyone who knows me long enough realizes that I spend a lot of time watching sports. Outside of video games, it is probably the hobby that I devote the most time to. And so I have chosen my own pleasure and enjoyment over fighting social injustice.
To cut the power of athletes is conceptually an easy task: simply stop watching them. More than anything else, it is putting your eyes on the sport that gives the athletes power. It is the fame and money gained from the fans that gives them free reign to rampage through our society. The NFL makes literally billions of dollars on television deals. That money is equally distributed amongst the teams, meaning eyes on any game really help all of them. In truth, it never mattered if a Roethlisberger is in the game I was watching. Every NFL game I watched put more money in his pocket. Even if I wasn’t giving him money, every post I read, every podcast I listened to about the NFL helped increase his fame. His fame, and all those in football like him.
So I stop watching. Easy right? Giving up baseball is simple; I never much liked it. Basketball not much harder. While I love hockey, my lack of cable limits, my exposure and makes giving it up easier. But football? That is part of me, down to the bones. I come from a family of football players. It is a component of my interaction with a lot of my family, my friends. Some of my fondest memories are of watching Monday Night Football on the coach with my dad. But I should stop. Despite all of those memories, I should stop.
I will stop, even if it takes a while. I am a confident man, but I do know that I am human. It is quite possible that I will not be able to cut out men’s sports cold turkey. Cutting something like this out of your life is not simple, easy, or quick. Much like my departure from religion, I will falter. I will find new false gods to worship, new rationalizations to keep me coming back. But even when I falter, I can still make a difference. Every little bit I don’t watch is another kink in the armor of male athlete empowerment. Eventually, I will kick the habit completely.
Here’s to new hobbies, new passions, and a better tomorrow.
-That is all.