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Behind the “Friday night Nights”

The Correlation Between Football and Rape Culture

Sexual+harassment+accusations+against+college+athletes+constitute+a+large+percentage+of+cases.
Sexual harassment accusations against college athletes constitute a large percentage of cases.

Sexual harassment accusations against college athletes constitute a large percentage of cases.

Sexual harassment accusations against college athletes constitute a large percentage of cases.

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Olivia Zimmerman, Scibe Editor

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Football–a cornerstone of American life. Some may argue it has taken the role of baseball as America’s pastime. Over 1.1 million students play the sport at more than 14,000 high schools across the country. We have TV shows like Friday Night Lights that portray the “ Great American game.” Every Friday night, at any given high school in the US, entire communities gather, like a weekly block party, to see an exciting, thrilling game of school against school. Football can bring great fame and power to a school. It makes a name, sends kids to the college game, and, if they’re good enough, to the NFL.

But this article isn’t about the excitement, the players, the wins , the loses. This isn’t about the ” bright eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”. This is about the darker side of athletics, the side that is hidden, the side that is silent, covered up, yet is somehow, still the elephant in the room. This is about the traumatizing and all too common problem of sexual assaults perpetrated by athletes, the very players we cheer for. When a victim on the sideline, hearing an entire student section cheering the name of the athlete who assualted them can be immensely damaging. Yet very little is done,and not much is changed. We suspend rapists for one, maybe two games, if at all, or it’s covered by a school. This has happened again and again and again, and it happens much more often than one would think it does.

Ma’lik Richmond was 16 in 2012 and a star high school football player, who assaulted a girl multiple times, with his friend, Trent Mays. They assaulted her multiple time and documented it on social media. He and Trent Mays were both convicted, although there were four total players present during the crime. One would think that a rape conviction would ruin all prospective chances of ever getting a scholarship or getting accolades, but Ma’lik Richmond was set to play for Youngstown State University football as walk on this year,with support from both YSU president and head coach, until backlash ensued, consequently resulting in Richmond to be benched (but only for this season).

According to the “National Coalition Against Violent Athletes,” intercollegiate athletes make up just 3.3% of the male student population, but make up 19% of all perpetrators in sexual assault cases. That means that less than four out of every hundred students is committing 1/5 of all assaults. Why don’t schools do something about these numbers? It all comes back to money. College football made 3.4 billion dollars in revenue in 2014. The more wins a school has, the more a head coach gets paid.So if you have a high school player who is ranked number 1 in their state but they have a rape allegation or conviction on their record, some coaches, like former head Baylor University coach Art Briles, will recruit a player even after this fact, because that player could bring more wins, which means more money for the school, and more money for Briles. Interestingly enough, there have been 31 players accused of over 52 acts of rape over 4 years at that school. Briles was still head coach during those years, and was found with incriminating text messages and emails with now former athletic director Ian McCaw, detailing that Briles allegedly knew of at least one of these assaults, and failed to act.

The culture surrounding the game itself also can have a profound impact on rape culture. Football is a full contact sport, where aggression and hypermasculinity are praised. That attitude is completely fine when it’s on the field, but if that attitude comes off into situations where people are in vulnerable situations, it can lead to horrible problems. In a culture as ours, where we elevate 15,16,17,18 year old boys whose brains are not yet matured to a celebrity status, giving them an inflated sense of self, aggression, and power, and then leaving that unchecked, can have disastrous consequences. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with idolizing players; we do it all the time, but there is something inherently wrong with placing athletes onto the pedestal to the point where they can get away with perpetrating heinous crimes. In colleges, for example, athletes are not your typical student; they are pawns in a billion dollar sports industry, making big funding money for schools. Furthermore, they are celebrities on campus, with people relying on them for victory. This happens even in high schools.

This isn’t a small problem either. This isn’t one or two extreme cases where a horrible person doing horrible things is on a team. For example, a survey done on 379 student-athletes at a non-disclosed college in the US showed that 54% used sexually coercive behavior or used force or threat for sex. The percentage for non athletes? 38. Athletes were also more likely to enforce negative attitudes about women and believe myths about rape. As for disciplinary measures against athletes, the conviction rate for the public for rape is 80%. The conviction rate for athletes is 38%. In the years 1994-1997, 1000 charges were brought against athletes each year (NCAVA).

What’s even scarier than these numbers (although they are horrifying on their own) is the fact that because of that team mentality, that “we are family, we’d die for eachother” mindset is the reason that 40% of all gang rapes are committed by athletes. And this mentality definitely exists. Just look at your local high school football teams in your newspapers’ sports column. The term “we’re brothers” or “we’re family” is one of the most common things said by players interviewed by reporters after games. Again, this is a fantastic mentality that can bring a team together and determine the difference between a win or a lose. But that whole “family” mentality also brings the fact that athletes commit gang rapes more often than peers.

This isn’t something we haven’t heard or seen before. From Jameis Winston at FSU, to Baylor University, to Corey Batey at Vanderbilt, football has an epidemic, and it is massive. This isn’t to say football is the only sport that has violent athletes. This isn’t only a sports problem or schools problem, it is all of ours. Society needs to come together and begin a culture of equality and of respecting women and men alike. We need to implement a culture where sports is just as awesome as science club. Sports, and particularly football, in colleges and high schools alike, have a problem of systemic sexism and out of control power. This isn’t to say that football or sports are bad; football is top of my list for favorite sports.

This isn’t to say all football players or athletes are sexist, dangerous people;the majority are amazing people with much athletic talent and smarts. Most players and programs are great, this problem is so big because there a few heinous, horrible players, and we currently have a system that gives them little to no consequences for ruining someone’s life. But in our culture, in our society, in this day and age, football is religion, and players are gods. As long as that doesn’t change, these numbers, these stats, these stories; they won’t either.

 

 

 

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Behind the “Friday night Nights”