Friday, September 12, 2014

“I Thought High-Profile People Get Away With Stuff Like This.”

in honor of both greg hardy choking his girlfriend on top of a couch loaded with assault weapons and ray rice showing his fiancé his left fist because she's not ready for his right, i've decided to post this article i wrote a few years back but never finalized. it's about the culture of violence in sports. but more than that, it's about the culture that lets the people who commit violent acts get away with it.

Ray Rice punching the mother of his kids.
In the Middle Ages, when knights had no one to fight, no dragons to slay, nothing to do—they would get into trouble. The kind of trouble that involves young ladies and drink and violence. Who could stop them? They were the biggest and the strongest, and filled with a testosterone-soaked sense of self- entitlement. They had their way with whoever, whenever. Consequences be damned.

To stop them, the people of the Middle Ages invented something called Courtly Love. And the point of courtly love was, as C.S. Lewis wrote: “love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy" ... "and the Religion of Love.” In practice, what it was, was a way to get those huge, violent doofuses to stop raping women, killing other young men, and destroying everything.

Now, in a different time with a similar problem, it’s doubtful that courtly love would stop professional athletes to stop going to strips clubs and causing violence. But...something has to happen.

Last week, Vince Young was in a strip club, and…well, some dude made fun of Vince’s alma mater, The University of Texas, and Vince had no choice but to go and stomp on the guy’s face.

Then there’s Big Ben Roethlisberger, who hangs out at college bars and trades shots with college-aged girls (17 to 21 years old). After that, he gets his bodyguards to bring one of the very intoxicated girls to the bathroom for him. And then Ben gets his bodyguards to keep her friends away from her while he does…well, he doesn’t perform that Carlos Acosta variation he’s been working on.

Then of course, we all know of the story of Pac-Man Jones, who “made it rain” at an Las Vegas strip club, then punched a woman in the face for trying to pick up some of the 10s and 20s he made rain on stage—ultimately the incident ended up in a shooting

We have Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, who hiredpimps to bring him underage girls. And the there’s Santonio Holmes who threw aglass at a woman’s head in a nightclub. (Outside the club, Holmes offereded the woman money saying he was a football player and couldn't face charges.) Then there’s real POS Brian Giles, who slapped his pregnant girlfriend into a miscarriage. Or his brother MarcusGiles? Or Phillip Merling, busted for punching his pregnant girlfriend inthe face. Or Leroy Hill, busted for smacking around his girlfriend. Or Jermaine Phillips who was arrested for domestic assault by strangulation. Or Michael Pittman, who has a history of domestic violence so long, I’ll just put this here. (Which only goes up to 2003, mind you.)
Ochocinco likes to keep it old school in his domestic violence,
preferring the good old headbutt.

All of them with violence against women.

Years ago, I defended sports and the sports culture from a woman in a graduate school class, who said that sports bred violence and aggression in men. I said that there were hundreds and hundreds of athletes who were good husbands and honorable men. And to that I hold. There are many decent, family men, athletes we should take pride in, who don’t commit acts of violence off the field.

Yet, we can’t stick our heads in the sand. After hundreds of reports of violence committed against women by professional athletes—incidents so commonplace, that as fans, we aren’t even shocked anymore—that in fact, they aren’t even reported any more, one has to wonder: Do sports in fact, lead to violent sexual aggression?

My answer is no. But with a caveat. It’s not the sports, but the culture surrounding it. It’s not the violence the commit inside the lines. It’s the violence they commit off the field…without any consequences.

In a 2003 article in USA Today, where reporters investigated 168 sexual assault allegations filed against athletes, only 22 went to trial, and only 6 resulted in convictions. When compared to the general public, where there is a 85% conviction rate, the athlete’s rate are is not just startling, it’s “What the Holy Crap?” ridiculous. Over two-thirds of the athletes were never even charged.

For instance, USA Today brings up the 1996 case where 2 Virginia Tech football players were indicted with rape and attempted sodomy of a female student in their apartment in 1996. Each conceded that the prosecution had enough evidence to convict them of attempted aggravated sexual battery, but did not admit guilt. Each received a one-year suspended sentence.

In an essay by Jill Neimark, entitled “Out of Bounds: The Truth about Athletes and Rape” (wherein, she says, “Remember that athletics is not the problem—but cultures that glorifies athletes more than anything else.”), she talks about the culture of rape on college campuses and in the professional sports world.

The ordnance Greg Hardy had on his futon when
he choked his girlfriend. (All these expensive weapons...and a futon?)
One possible reason for the astounding lack of guilt among athletes who rape is the special privilege accorded a star athlete—and the constant female adoration he attracts. “The ‘hotshot syndrome’ is inevitably part of team sports,” says Dr. Gondolf. “If you’re an athlete in college, you’re given scholarships, a nice dorm, doctors, trainers, a lot of support and attention and fans and cheerleaders who ogle you—that sense of privilege influences you, and some guys may then think. ‘I deserve something for this. I can take women, the rules don’t apply to me.’ They feel they’re above the law.”

“I used to have girls call me up,” says former quarterback Jay, “and say, ‘I go to football games and watch you, I look at your picture in the program, I’m writing a paper on you.’ It happened all the time. You get this attitude where you can do anything you want and nobody is ever going to say anything to you.”

Coaches and universities contribute to the athlete’s unique sense of entitlement. As Dr. Walsh notes, “When we’re talking about athletic teams and gang rape, we see how, time after time, the entire community comes to the support of the team. Athletes are very important in the fabric of a campus or town. They keep alumni interested, and produce money for the community.”

LaMichael James, a running back for the University of Oregon, who had an excellent first season, was arrested on February 17th 2010 on domestic violence charges— harassment, assault and strangulation. He pled to harassment, has 24 months of probation and will be penalized one game by the University of Oregon—a piece of cake game against the University of New Mexico.

Frostee Rucker, at 13 was arrested for raping a childhood friend. Ultimately, Rucker was acquitted in juvenile court after many sources came forward in his defense due to his being an outstanding student athlete with potential and a very up-standing kid rape notwithstanding.

At Colorado State, Rucker was accused and charged with sexual assault by a fellow CSU athlete who claimed that he had forced himself on her. However, the accuser eventually refused to testify, as did another female student at Colorado State who claimed to be assaulted by Rucker. He was charged with simple assault. He then transferred to USC.

Perez, pitching for the Expos in 1995, the same year Mandy
Bernard, claimed he raped her. Despite Bernard producing
92 police photos of damage to her body and possessing 
articles of her clothing recovered from Perez' hotel room. 
Her case never went to trial.

It continues. At USC, Rucker is charged with assault and domestic violence. According to ex girlfriend Joelle Branshe, Rucker would habitually rough her up, smack her down and beat her up. Rucker settled the matter out of court and didn’t receive any punishment at all.

And this kind of behavior lasts until the professional leagues, and with the same kind of protection from the higher ups. Take Carlos Perez, who had 3 different women accuse him of rape—icluding one woman who accused him of raping her while Perez was pitching for the Expos. Despite possessing strong evidence, her case never made it to trial. Perez pitched until the year 2000 and made over 17 million dollars playing in MLB.

Now, we must make a devil’s advocate. Athletes, major ones at least, are celebrities. Aren’t there women who cry rape even though none occurred, just to extort money, from these athletes?

Well, it’s certainly possible. But it doesn’t explain why women would accuse athletes at smaller colleges where the athletes have virtually no chance to make it big and become rich. More weighty evidence, a FBI investigation into rape accusations put the number of false rape reports at roughly eight percent. Even if that number is grossly underestimated, we would still have to conclude that there are a lot of accusations that are true (and that’s not accounting for the ones that aren’t reported).

Also, this essay isn’t a finger-wagging incrimination of all athletes. It is not to say that you have to be a saint to play pro sports. Everybody makes mistakes and commits wrongs. But there are lines. Or there should be. And when those lines are crossed, there should be some sort of punishment, wh.

Recently, on NPR, Frank Deford took a leave of his senses and argued that we should essentially ignore the fact that athletes commit crimes. Here’s Deford:

“What always confounds me is the premise that Commissioner Roger Goodell cited — as do the other so-called czars of sport — that their players ‘have to be held to a higher standard.’ But why? Why, pray, of all people, are athletes, pretty much alone in our society, expected to be sweeter than the average angel?”

Well, Frank, pray tell, if your pizza man rapes a woman, would your children, and 50 million other children hear/read/see all about it? Would those children have any ties to the pizza man other than deliverer of pizza? Was the pizza man a hero to them, an idol? Did he embody everything they wanted to be? Would he/she be heartbroken that their idol now committed violence against women? Did they see the injuries?

And Mr. Deford—they don’t have to be angels. But is it really unrealistic for the public to expect players to not choke and slap their wives, and point a loaded handgun at her head in front of their children (1). Or to expect a player to not threaten to kill his wife, then go out an impregnate a 17-year-old foster child, and then throw a Gatorade bottle at said foster child when she tells the athlete about the pregnancy (2). Or knowingly commit statutory rape of a 14-year old girl whom you knew for 4 years, after getting her drunk (3). Or sexually assault a girl in a dorm room, grope another girl in a crowded bar and tell her how she loved it in an obscenity-laced tirade, then “allegedly” rape another girl twice in two days, the second time in front of his teammates (4).

Stevenson asked a 14-year-old-girl if
 she had any "freak friends," girls "that
will do anything sexually," then got
 the girl and her friend drunk  and had
sex with them. Stevenson served
time as a basketball camp counselor. 
Bobby Chouinard (1) played two more seasons after the incident above. He actually was arrested and served time for holding a gun to his wife’s head while she begged for her life on Christmas Day 1998. But he got to serve his year in jail in 3-month increments so he could still play baseball. Elijah Dukes (2) was arrested 4 times for battery and once for assault before the above incident happened in 2007. He played two more seasons in the MLB. (3) DeShawn Stevenson, for the statutory rape in 2001, served as (of all things) a celebrity youth counselor at basketball camps for 103 hours. He played in the NBA 2013 and has made almost 30 million dollars not including his endorsements. (4) Christian Peter for the three incidents above, was suspended for, wait for it, an exhibition game, then served 18 months of a suspended sentence. Afterwards, Peter played 6 years in the NFL. In 2006, Peter was named to the University of Nebraska Hall of Fame.

So why does this happen? Why do athletes get such preferential treatment at almost every level of the judicial process of sexual assault or rape cases? One thought is we, as the public, praise men for being violent on the field of play, we should expect them to act the same way off it.

“It’s a tempting correlation, but far too easy,” says National Coalition Against Violent Athlete’s Kathy Redmond (who was the girl "allegedly” raped by Peter twice in two days), whose organization advises and counsels victims of athlete violence at the pro and college levels. Redmond notes that the sport she’s been hearing the most reports on lately is men’s pro volleyball. “That tells me that it’s not necessarily the violence [of the sport]; it’s the fact that you have pro tours where the money’s coming in,” she says.

Moreso, says Neil DeMause, writing in the Village Voice, it’s the sense of entitlement that results, say many experts in athlete violence, is the key: Athletes are told from high school on up that their athletic prowess puts them above the law—by cops who let them off for speeding tickets, club owners who hush up their abusive behavior in order to ensure a steady flow of celebrities through their doors, college administrators and pro team officials who cut deals to keep their star players on the field.

“If you give somebody so much extra privilege in certain areas, and so much adulation, it warps their sense of what their boundaries are. I don’t want to say it does it to everybody, but that’s a very common dynamic,” says Stephen Grams, whose Tucson-based SAGE is one of the first licensed batterer-counseling groups in the country.

And as stated previously, the preferential treatment extends to the courtroom as prosecutions of athletes committing crimes against women is much lower than when "common" people are charged

No, money is the reason why. As Juliette Terzieff wrote in, “Grooming, training and marketing sports stars is a multi-million dollar industry that takes root early on as universities invest alumni donations heavily into their athletic programs.” So universities realize that they need athletes to play well to get on alumni to donate large sums of money. And thus, players know they were get covered for when they get into trouble.

“Players know if they do anything wrong, the first thing you do is go and talk to the coach,” Redmond says. “We’re the only country in the world that ties its sports to education. We condemn Third World countries for how they treat women, while what we allow as ‘boys will be boys’ behavior is just as bad.”

Condoning athletes who commit crimes is mostly about the money. From college until the big leagues, athletes’ crimes, are for the most part, brushed aside. For instance, until recently, steroids in major American sports were benignly ignored. It wasn’t until fans became outraged about steroids and HGH that the major sports did much of anything—there are punishments set up for violators of the performance enhancing drugs. Why did it take so long to do something? Well, mostly because owners didn’t care. If it helped athletes play better, then fine. But when fans became angry—fans that buy tickets, watch on TV and spend lots of moneys on these players and hold them to be role models—and might begin to stay away and not spend money, well, then something had to be done. However, domestic abuse and sexual assault are largely not addressed by most sports leagues. As Bethany P. Withers wrote in her article, “The Integrity of the Game: Professional Athletes and Domestic Violence,” in the Journal of Sport and Entertainment Law:

“From the time the role of the commissioner was established in MLB, player gambling has been forbidden. Similarly, substance abuse is punished with either suspensions or fines. Conversely…domestic violence has been largely ignored by professional sports leagues.”

Why? Well, duh. Money The reason any corporate entity does anything is to propagate money. Now that in itself isn't a bad thing. But when they grease wheels to let rapists and inveterate wife abusers go free....they unintentionally create a culture of Frostee Ruckers and Carlos Perez. And future Frostees and Carlos's.

The title of the article comes for the court testimony of Nicole Holder, former girlfriend of Carolina Panther Greg Hardy. When asked why she ran from the cops, this is what she said in full.

"I thought high-profile people get away with stuff like this. He's Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers. (emphasis mine)."

And that's the zeitgeist of people today. Athletes have a class for themselves where laws that apply to everyone else, don't apply to them. And the structure that gives them this bullet-proof lifestyle is trying to say, "Don't Blame Us!" 

Withers uses a quote from a 1998 article, Greg Aiello, NFL communications director:

“We’re not the criminal justice system. We can’t cure every ill in society. You know, we’re putting on football games. And unless it impacts on the business, we have to be very careful [from a legal standpoint] about disciplinary action we take.”

And there it is. Women come second to the "impact on business.” And that's the reason why Christian Peter didn’t get punished. Or Elijah Dukes. Or Abram Elam. Or Lawrence Clay-Bey. Or Stan Callender. Or Isiah Rider. Or Oklahoma State linebacker Chris Collins who received probation for the aggravated sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl. Or…