That Again

By Ramzy Nasrallah on June 8, 2016 at 1:15 pm
that again

How many games should a football player miss for beating up a woman?

Don't answer yet - the question is too broad. Let's narrow that down to specific incidents, like Ray Rice knocking out his fiancée, De'Andre Johnson punching a woman who grabbed him, Jeffery Simmons repeatedly beating a woman who was already on the ground and Carlos Hyde almost punching a woman who struck him first.

Those have something in common: They were all caught on video. Rice's KO originally got him suspended for about half of what Terrelle Pryor got for selling his own football trinkets. Johnson's college football dreams are still intact but now has to pursue them on a smaller stage than Florida State's (for now). Simmons will be forced to miss one game this fall. Hyde sat out for three.

william meggs
DA William Meggs happily declining to charge Jameis Winston with rape.

Those rulings are all over the place, but they too have something in common: The value of the perpetrator to his respective organization was taken into consideration when the punishments were levied.

Rice was an NFL starter and Super Bowl champion. Johnson was an expendable backup in a town whose law enforcement puts a lot of work into shielding football players from the consequences of behaving badly. Simmons is Mississippi State's most prized incoming recruit. Hyde was a Heisman candidate who broke one of those rules at Ohio State under Urban Meyer 2.0 that you're just not allowed to break.

But Hyde didn't hit her. He tried. Three games felt like a lot because...well, he's really good. There's no sanctioned conversion chart to go by. These were judgment calls, all of which screamed of apprehension. We really don't want to punish you, but we have to.

You could also look at Jameis Winston whose rape case produced DNA evidence, witness tampering and a chuckling District Attorney in an FSU-colored tie announcing Winston wouldn't be charged. Florida State's willfully negligent handling of Winston's rape case ultimately cost the university a million dollars in settlement money.

But he stayed eligible. And Winston won the Heisman while leading the Seminoles to a BCS title. You know how many schools would spend a million dollars to preserve a Heisman candidacy and a national championship run? All of them. That's less than an eighth of what Ohio State will collect in just ticket revenue for the Bowling Green game.

Those are just individual players. Threats to the entire program are far more serious.

Baylor, a program that abruptly rose to prominence repeatedly dismissed rapes and assaults committed by its football players and is now being shamed for it, kind of. Last week the Waco Tribune ran a full-page ad thanking disgraced former president Ken Starr for his leadership and integrity. And that's despite the Baylor coverup probably being far worse than is being reported.

Similar serial marginalizations of rape and assault have also taken place at Tennessee, where football is enormously important with financial implications well beyond the institution itself:

Tennessee Athletics generates $463.9 million annually in overall economic impact for the state of Tennessee and $618.3 million annually for Knox county...State and local government tax revenues attributable to Tennessee Athletics totals $27.6 million annually exclusive of tax revenues related to ticket sales.

That's a ton of money for a lot of people with enormous power. Football programs - collegiate or pro - would rather sell anonymous women officially licensed bedazzled team jerseys than hear about the assaults committed against them by the players driving both their popularity and profit motive.

It's not always about the cash, though. Sometimes it's just about the potential.

This week the lenient judgment against Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, made international news. The details of the rape are grotesque. But he's a star athlete who got into one of the most selective universities in the world. His father didn't think raping some random woman (or 20 minutes of action as he delicately put it) should wreck his son's promising future he worked so hard for so many years to build. The judge, a former Stanford athlete himself, agreed.

Imagine showing that kind of judicial sympathy, benevolence and mercy to a straight-A student who ended up becoming a school shooter. Or a terrorist. Or a drug trafficker. A few minutes of indiscretion shouldn't ruin his whole life too. It's unimaginable. Yet it's the prevailing thought when a man of value - or "potential value" - rapes or beats a woman.

We are effectively telling rape victims they have no value. This is the collapse of humanity.

You are never going to rape anyone. You're not ever going to hit a woman either; most of us don't. It's easier to shrug off both this epidemic of violence against women because you're not contributing to it. Even though it is pitifully prosecuted when someone of value - an athlete from a powerful league or a member of the privileged class - is guilty, you're not in law enforcement or sit on a bench. In your head, this doesn't involve you.

But regardless of who the guilty party is, something insidious happens every single time any man who has raped or beaten a woman has his value taken into account to determine how severe his punishment should be: We effectively tell his victim that she has no value. This is the collapse of humanity.

That's on us, non-rapists included. When we measure assaults against women in terms of game suspensions we're complicit in contributing to this culture. I'm 100 percent guilty of it.

Four years ago when Ohio State linebacker Storm Klein was charged with assault and domestic violence my first thought was wow Storm Klein is an asshole. My second thought was of Ohio State's depth chart. My third thought was if he was kicked off the team then...well, whatever (he was later reinstated following an investigation).

ken starr art briles
Former Baylor employees Ken Starr and Art Briles.

It was all about the cost to Ohio State's football team. The details and shaky validity of the charges against him are irrelevant; it's about what even hearing about violence against women by an athlete, a rich guy, an indigent guy or any guy makes you think. If Klein had robbed a bank or run over some little kids while hammered behind the wheel, linebacker depth never would have crossed my mind. 

If you've ever thought what an idiot, to throw it all away like that about something like this - you're doing it too. As a gender our thoughts immediately tend to gravitate to what the man stands to lose. An Ohio State scholarship. How could he do that to his future. 

We are openly fatigued by news of child abuse. And we also have the ugliest priorities whenever women are abused. This isn't a new crisis. It's a long-established culture.

The prevailing fix is that we should teach women how to avoid being raped by dressing more conservatively, drinking more responsibly and being aware of their surroundings. Sure, that all makes sense. But perhaps women should be able to dress however the fuck they want to; a privilege that’s been afforded to men since the dawn of time. You can get blackout drunk but they shouldn't - because that's dangerous. Maybe we should stop tolerating rape and violence instead.

It’s easy to roll your eyes at the useful goons who continue to defend Joe Paterno's inaction for all those years Jerry Sandusky preyed on children in State College. They're stubbornly focused on Paterno's legacy above all else. They're cartoonish. We gawk at them.

But every time we consider the value of a man first when determining how he should be punished for violating a woman, we become those goons. And we should be better than that.

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