Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

Manti Te’o’s hoax overshadowing legit deaths of women

January 17, 2013

An important read by one of my favorite writers/bloggers, Irin Carmon, this piece details how the Manti Te’o scandal has overshadowed the death of an actual Notre Dame student — a suicide reportedly tied to intimidation by football players regarding sexual assault allegations.

Media-wise, it’s similar to the recent murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend. Horrific as it was, the way it was spun by many sports outlets was even more horrific — what a terrible tragedy that this football player killed himself, rather than — what a terrible tragedy that this football player murdered his girlfriend and the mother of her child.

And all this Manti Te’o hoopla, mixed with Lance Armstrong nonsense, has likely overshadowed that the autopsy for the Belcher shooting came back a few days ago. His BAC was twice the legal limit, and he had actually been found by police hours earlier sleeping in his idle car. According to Missouri law, they could’ve booked him on driving under the influence. Instead, they let him “go inside a nearby apartment to sleep it off.”

The apartment he wanted to go to was his mistress’s, who he had been with the night before. Instead, he went to a different apartment, slept a few hours, returned home, fought with his girlfriend, and then shot her nine times. Nine.

It’s a terrible disservice to Kasandra Perkins and Lizzy Seeburg that their tragic deaths are overshadowed by a story like this, of an imaginary girlfriend — that they just didn’t have enough shock value to keep people’s attention.

But along the lines of Carmon’s piece — she states “no one should be surprised” by the oversight of Seeburg’s suicide — maybe the saddest part is that these deaths aren’t that shocking considering the circumstances. Football players from a violent game being aggressive and/or violent off the field isn’t much of a stretch. But for some reason, that doesn’t make us any better at predicting the aggressive behavior.

What else can we get better at predicting? Drunk people have poor judgment, so they shouldn’t be let off for drunk driving with just a warning. Offenders will likely offend again, so incidents shouldn’t be quickly dismissed for the sake of a sport. Let’s focus on these cracks in the system — which affect tons of people — instead of one guy’s catfish/ill-fated sob story.

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What do NPH and Beyoncé have in common?

January 16, 2013

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if people are homophobic, purposely inflammatory, or just actually dumb. Legit dumb.

Conservative website WND reported last week that Neil Patrick Harris, according to some, must be mocking Christians and pushing his gay agenda by mimicking Tim Tebow’s signature eyeblack in promotional photos for the Super Bowl:

I wonder what agenda Beyoncé was pushing when she did a similar advertisement months ago?:

If you want to create inflammatory news stories to push your own agenda, maybe try to make them a little more logically consistent? This is just plain lazy. And of course, WND made no news of Beyoncé’s ad. 

Wait… or maybe… everyone’s mad because NPH isn’t making a kissy face, aren’t they?

Expecting a cheerleader to root for her rapist is repulsive

May 10, 2011

(Note: I changed the wording in a few sentences because as one reader pointed out, Rakheem Bolton is an alleged rapist — he was never convicted. Unchanged “rapist” references are meant to provide prospective from the cheerleader’s point of view, not to mislead readers into thinking Bolton was convicted of rape.)

That a 16-year-old cheerleader could be raped by a peer on the basketball team and then be dropped from the team because she refused to cheer for him during games is a repulsive example of how highly we value athletes — to the point where we’ll choose to forcefully and repeatedly traumatize a sexual assault victim rather than witness a microscopic lack of school spirit while someone shoots free throws.

To be clear, the cheerleader only refused to shout his name and cheer for him on the free throw line; she cheered otherwise. (Update: This is the cheer she refused to say: “Two, four, six, eight, ten! Go Rakheem. Put it in!” I mean, really? The school demanded she shout that to her rapist?) But now she’s stuck with the school’s legal fee bill: $45,000. All because she didn’t want to personally encourage the person she alleges raped her (he plead guilty to misdemeanor assault, so the rape charge was dropped and he was free to remain on the basketball team). But this case never should have gone to the courts — the school system should have just been more understanding.

One of the major reasons the school wasn’t sensitive is that people are so obsessed with sports that they’ll overlook anything so long as their athletes remain able to play in the game. There’s no denying that athletes constantly get preferential treatment — especially at the high school and college levels, where the schools are focused on their team winning and keeping public support high because the teams are significant moneymakers. Oftentimes for better players, even fans are willing to look the other way at or forget about indiscretions if it means victory for the team (on the professional level, think Kobe Bryant or Michael Vick).

But we shouldn’t overlook the correlation between male student-athletes and sexual assault — one study showed that there was a significantly larger proportion of male student-athletes in reports of violence against women; another showed that on-the-field aggression can follow athletes outside the sports arena and into their relationships with women. In 2003, USA Today found that in the 12 years prior, 164 athletes and former athletes had been accused of sexual assault. If we want to combat sexual assault, enabling athletes and punishing victims isn’t the path to follow.

The school officials wanted to punish her though, because (1) cheerleading so powerfully affects these athletes’ talent and ability, plus (2) her lack of enthusiasm at the sight of her rapist was somehow unreasonable. I don’t know if it was because, as the Independent article claimed, she cheered in a “sport-obsessed small town” in Texas that demanded school spirit, or because they were afraid if she didn’t cheer then people would start asking questions.  If the latter was their strategy, that didn’t go so well.

Does this guy really need her cheers to effectively make a basket? I doubt he gave a shit if she cheered for him at the free throw line. And, as my friend Nicole pointed out, forcing this cheerleader to scream her rapist’s name and cheer for him during games is assaulting her all over again. Should she be forced to quit if it makes her uncomfortable? Absolutely not. A sexual assault survivor shouldn’t have to change her life around to make her rapist feel better.

And let’s not forget: This girl is 16 years old. She is a child. She is a teenager and a student who should be protected by her teachers and school officials — instead, they are attacking her. Good to know she’ll use $45,000 that could’ve been a full four years at a public in-state college instead toward paying the legal fees for a school that demanded she cheer for someone who she alleges raped her or be kicked off the team — what a great message about the education system.

What’s the lesson here? We don’t want people asking questions or our athletes to feel unappreciated, so you better applaud whenever you see your rapist, because to us, school spirit is worth crushing your spirit.

Quick note: Celebrities are human, too (aka don’t mess with Britney)

April 14, 2011

This just in: Celebrities are human, too.

I’ve been seeing a lot of hate toward Britney Spears lately for her performances of singles from her new album. People say she’s lost her touch and can’t dance like she used to, and that this makes her performances lackluster and lame. Then I read about how Tiger Woods has lost his golf touch. Whether their life crises has directly affected their talent is questionable — maybe they’re just getting old? Has anyone thought of that?

Spears is nearly 30, but she’s been performing professionally practically non-stop for 15+ years. Woods is 35, but he’s been golfing professionally for nearly 15 years as well. Both also were non-professionally honing their craft from an early age, Spears since age 3 and Woods since age 2. Isn’t it feasible that they are simply running out of steam after decades of putting their bodies through constant physical stress? We accept that athletes’ careers are very short because of the physical toll it takes; so why are so many people surprised that the same would happen to Spears or Woods?

This just agitates me because we put celebrities on these pedestals, and it makes it harder for them to live up to these expectations, and it only puts higher expectations on ourselves. We wonder why they are gaining weight and looking older, so they go get plastic surgery and crash diet so that the public doesn’t judge them; then we look at those same celebrities and feel inadequate because we don’t look as nearly perfect. Celebrities might get airbrushed so they don’t have any skin pores or wrinkles, but that’s not reality — they get old, and they can’t keep the same pace as their 18-year-old selves.

Sorry, but Britney will always be Britney in my book. I don’t care if she doesn’t dance like she did in the early 2000s, and I don’t even care if she lip-syncs all her songs. She’s made her mark in the music industry and is a great performer, and I don’t expect she’ll always dance like she did as a teenager or young 20-something. Also under this category, file “assuming female celebrities are pregnant because they don’t have rock solid flat stomachs or because their clothes are at a certain angle.” Ugh.

Harassment of female reporter brings 3 problems to mind

September 15, 2010

Many, many people have written about how difficult it is for female reporters in the sports world — and the recent harassment of a female reporter during a Jets practice has reignited the discussion. Jets players were cat-calling, oogling, and harassing reporter Inez Sainz in other ways, too:

Well, from what I can gather, and I spoke with various people who were at the practice, at the beginning of practice, reporters are allowed to watch from the sidelines. And one of the assistant coaches decided – as his players who are defensive backs were running these receiving routes that he would throw the ball deliberately in Inez’s direction – thus setting up this potential collision with the players and her.

Three things (aside from the harassment itself) bother me about this incident: (1) Sainz, who originally Tweeted that she was embarrassed about the incident, is now being ambiguous about whether the comments bothered her or made her feel uncomfortable; (2) whether Sainz being a former Miss Universe contestant will be used as a qualification of the harassment; and (3) some people are forgetting that though these guys play a sport for a living, it’s still their job and deserves professionalism.

The first speaks to how desensitized women can become to harassment — Sainz said that harassment in general, though never as strong as what she experienced at the Jets practice, was something she had experienced in the past. So despite her initial admission on Twitter that the event was embarrassing, it seems she might’ve succombed to the social pressure to shrug it off — especially in the sports arena that breeds the “boys will be boys” mentality.

But she also needed to fight off the behavior for her work’s sake. Though Sainz told ABC, “I am not the one who made the charge and who says I feel uncomfortable,” she admitted she was trying to block out the harassment for professional reasons too, as “it’s not easy to be in a locker room and hear and notice that everybody is speaking about you and probably making some jokes.” Sainz was forced to make a choice: ignore the harassment and get the interview, or possibly ruin her chances at the interview by protesting the harassment — an unfair predicament considering a male reporter likely wouldn’t have to make such a career choice.

Second, I hope her stint as a Miss Universe contestant isn’t used as ammunition against her — obviously it isn’t warranted, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear people qualifying the harassment because of her past. It’s a common theme — woman does XYZ behavior in the past that showcases her body and is meant to attract male attention, and that one choice then becomes an invitation for oogling for the rest of that woman’s life.

Oh, she was a stripper/prostitute/pagaent queen/model/insert job where you take your clothes off/wear revealing clothing/do something sexual — so that must mean you (1) love and always seek attention and (2) invite/deserve harassment. This path of “logic” is used way too frequently, and it’s ridiculous to say that what someone did at one point in time characterizes them and what they want for the rest of their lives.

Some have questioned her outfit for the practice (because they’ve got to find at least ONE reason to blame her), but sports columnist Tara Sullivan says:

I mean, even if people have an issue with what this woman was wearing, it does not condone that reaction.

The reaction is to go to your PR person and say, hey, listen: Why did you let this woman come into the locker room? She shouldn’t be credentialed. That’s the professional way to handle that, not to start hooting and hollering at her in the locker room.

Which brings up the final point — professionalism. Not only was Sainz trying to do her job, but these football players are also at work when they are cat-calling and shouting verbal harassment. Redskins’ running back Clinton Portis justifies the harassment by saying it’s OK because female reporters obviously are going to be attracted to someone in the locker room (that makes sense how?).

Sorry Portis, but you and all those other football players are at work — the locker room is different than the water cooler, but you’re still getting a ridiculously gigantic paycheck and should act professionally in return. (Also, check out the link above because writer Dan Wetzel makes a good point about peers in the locker room needing to decry the harassment to really get it to stop.)

In a world where athletes are products, actions do matter

April 29, 2010

Yesterday on an NPR segment, Frank Deford argued that we need to get over the fact that athletes aren’t good role models, and come to terms with the idea that role models can be positive or negative. If you’re scratching your head thinking, “What the hell are you talking about, Frank Deford??” then you’re not alone.

Deford says this in regard to the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault scandal and how Ben is suspended for the first six games of the season because athletes “have to be held to a higher standard,” according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Deford says that the entire notion that we should look up to athletes is flawed to begin with, and these kind of sanctions don’t actually teach the athletes anything.

First, the idea that not all role models should be positive, and hence that it’s OK that some are negative, is ridiculous to say the least. The entire connotation of a role model is that it’s something positive — why on earth would you encourage people to mimic negative behavior? Calling a murderer or a rapist a “role model” immediately is repulsive, because you don’t want people to continue murdering and raping people.

So yeah Frank, I’d prefer that role models only be positive. To say otherwise is merely semantics and an attempt to create a loophole for athletes who want to commit criminal behavior. And it’s odd that Deford concedes, “OK, if they violate the statute law, fine, put them in the hoosegow,” especially considering that the celebrity and power of these athletes is a big reason why they don’t get slapped with criminal charges in many cases, or why they get lesser sentences.

Considering that Roethlisberger is rich and famous, and that sexual assaults often don’t make it to trial for a variety of reasons, I’d say Roethlisberger’s money was an easy way to keep him out of court and jail. The survivor doesn’t have to go through the often emotional and traumatizing process of a trial, and Ben doesn’t risk actually being convicted of a felony.

Does him not going to court change the fact that what he allegedly did was reprehensible? No. And it’s not like Tiger Woods, who Deford references, because adultery is not a crime. People don’t like it, but cheating on your wife is different than sexually assaulting or raping someone. Woods is apologizing not only because his morality is in question, but because he was marketed as a role model.

Roethlisberger, like all athletes, is inherently a role model because we have attached that stigma to athletes, which is something Deford is against. But not only are athletes valued for their talent, strength, determination, and ambition — they are role models because athletes today are sold as products. Think of how many athletes are spokespeople for clothes, shoes, drinks, food, etc. If athletes are like products, then of course you don’t want to be marketing bad products.

And to the American people, bad products are products that don’t fit into the moldable, marketable ideal that society holds for athletes. If this marketability didn’t exist, a lot of athletes — like Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps — might not be as wealthy as they are because their sports without sponsorships don’t net close to what they make with these jobs. Like anything being sold to us, we aren’t buying unless we like what we see — and what American likes seeing someone who is going to sexually assault women?

I get that athletes might not want to be role models, but they are. It comes with the territory, and I don’t think it’s a revolutionary concept (did no athletes today have athletic role models when they were growing up?). And with more recognition comes more pressure to be a good product, but that recognition usually carries benefits like money and prestige. Deford asks:

Why, pray, of all people, are athletes, pretty much alone in our society, expected to be sweeter than the average angel? It is politicians and clergy and those maestros of finance on Wall Street who ought to be held to a higher standard.

No one’s asking athletes to be sweeter than the average angel — the average angel doesn’t go around sexually assaulting women! And politicians and clergy are both held to a higher accountability than average Americans. Why do you think the Vatican doesn’t want to turn its child molestation problem into a public affair? Why do you think political careers can be ruined by leaked information — see Larry Craig and John Edwards, to name a few.

Sure, sometimes people bounce back — Bill Clinton is still a beloved president despite having multiple extramarital affairs. My own former U.S. representative, Steve LaTourette, was caught have an affair and still is serving in office. Sometimes athletes do, too — Michael Vick was America’s enemy when he was convicted of dogfighting but then after his nearly two-year sentence, many fans were eager to cheer for him — but Deford is completely offbase is asserting that Americans only scrutinize athletes.

So yes, athletes in a very basic sense should only be judged based on their athletic ability. But then you add fans who will pay hundreds of dollars to see you play games and companies who will pay millions of dollars for you to market their products, and it’s about a lot more than how many touchdowns you can get. Athletes might be frustrated that they are scruntinized off the field, but sports is a business just like anything else, and athletes who sexually assault women are bad for business and for humankind in general.