Opinion: The double standard of sexual assault in sports

By Channing Flatt—

Staff Writer

Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey and countless others were recently disgraced and outcast from Hollywood after these men were revealed as sexual predators.

After years—possibly decades— of abusing power and bullying their victims into silence, their horrible deeds were finally exposed. The world couldn’t be more disgusted. My only question is why this is not the case in the world of sports?

Countless athletes have accusations of either sexual assault, violence against women or both. Those athletes seem invulnerable to the shame cast to the others also recently exposed.

Is the punishment unfitting of the crime when the accused is leading the charge of a championship run? Are allegations swept under the rug when those in question put up the best numbers of their career? Why do actors, entertainers and movie moguls have their names dragged through the mud for their allegations, but star athletes are welcomed to crowds of adoring fans who couldn’t be more willing to turn a blind eye?

Maybe it’s because people like Weinstein were monsters behind the scenes.

Weinstein wasn’t a household name until recent allegations, but after the allegations we can conclude he is truly a despicable person. However, when those accused are hometown heroes leading your favorite team to victory, does that make the pill a little harder to swallow?

Some athletes who faced sexual assault allegations in their careers were damaged for a short time. Coincidentally, when they won championships or put up great numbers, everyone seemed to conveniently forget it ever happened.

Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback of the Pittsburg Steelers, was accused of sexual assault on two different occasions— once in 2009 and again in 2010. However, with both allegations being so close to two of his super bowl appearances, those allegations went from career-threatening to demerits on his permanent record. Despite the allegations after nearly a decade later, his jersey is currently ranked 17th in 2017 sales according to nflpa.com. Unfortunately, those incidents are just an afterthought to his adoring fan base.

Kobe Bryant is another star whose reputation was tarnished after being arrested for sexual assault in 2003. Although he originally was condemned for his actions by the public and had endorsements pulled, things coincidently went back to normal when Bryant put up the best numbers of his career in the 2005-2006 season. Since the incident, Bryant seemingly shook off the shame by starring in commercials, earning back endorsements and having both his jersey numbers retired by the Los Angeles Lakers organization upon his retirement. At the end of his career, 13 years after the incident—the city of Los Angeles and his number of fans couldn’t have been prouder of him.

Those athletes and situations brings me to my last question: Do we treat athletes differently when it comes to sexual assault?

It’s apparent to almost anyone that athletes usually get their way when it comes to adoration and respect, so I don’t understand why sexual assault has to be one of those things. I wonder if we have a soft spot in our judgement for those leading our favorite teams to victory when it comes to their actions.

When an athlete gets in trouble, we stop wearing their jersey. We stop cheering them on. We stop letting them get away with atrocities and hold them accountable for their actions. I only ask that we stop the double standard.

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