Despite my lack of love for football, I was rooting for the Green Bay Packers during Sunday’s Super Bowl game. But it wasn’t because they seemed like the particularly better team (though I do love cheeseheads). No I, like many others, was so turned off by stories concerning Ben Roethlisberger and his lurid history of sexual assault that I couldn’t bring myself to root for him or the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the days that have followed, however, I’ve wondered if rooting for the Packers along the lines that they are a “better” group of individuals was particularly wise or based in fact.
In short, no. Packers players have an equally complex recent history in regards to their treatment of women; six players have been charged by two women for sexual assault. They consist of quarterback Matt Flynn, linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, fullback Korey Hall, guard Josh Sitton and …
… safety Khalil Jones. Like Roethlisberger, all who were originally involved have been released of charges. Recently, a new allegation has been pressed against cornerback Brandon Underwood. Underwood’s investigation is also being conducted by the Lake Delton Police Department in Wisconsin, where the alleged assault occurred. Sgt. Gerald Grimsled, “It comes down to ‘was it consensual sex?’ One side says yes, the other says no.” I’d say that if one side thinks it wasn’t consensual, and physically and/or vocally stated that it was not, then it wasn’t.
The Packers may have won, but the more complicated legacy they leave behind involves the sports stars that society exalts time and again. Many argue that these men, with their incredible athletic abilities and multi-million dollar contracts, are getting away with morally reprehensible activities an average man wouldn’t be able to. Others attest that they set a bad precedent for society, one that indicates that it is possible to continue leading an amazing life while not behaving like a decent person. Only the latter statement is actually true. In fact, I see nothing that indicates that professional athletes get any more leniency than the average man when it comes to cases of rape and sexual assault.
Statistically, very few rape cases are actually reported. While actual recent numbers are hard to come by, several studies done in the past decade indicate that only 16 percent of rapes are reported to the police (official justice department numbers say its more around 36 percent). More interestingly, of these reported rapes, around half or more never make it to court and are rejected by prosecutors before they can even see a jury.
Ben Roethlisberger may have gotten off because he cried and gave a half-apology to his team alone, saying “I’m truly sorry for the disappointment and negative attention I brought to my family, my teammates, coaches, the Rooneys and the NFL. I understand that the opportunities I have been blessed with are a privilege, and much is expected of me as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I absolutely want to be the leader this team deserves, valued in the community and a role model to kids. I have much work to do to earn this trust.” If that’s not admittance to wrongdoing, I don’t know what is. But we are ultimately most disappointed in him because he was just not supposed to do this! People like Roethlisberger are a dime a dozen; their activities are shoved in our faces, and they receive little punishment because most “normal” people deal with few repercussions for sexual assault and rape. If those of us who choose football teams along the lines of their players’ criminal records want to make our Super Bowl choices easier, we have to start from the bottom up. It’s easy to blame the big guys; it’s harder to make widespread change that makes us all rethink our demands.