Over the last few days, it's been impossible to escape the headlines of "Locker Room Talk." After all, the Republicans' poor excuse for a presidential nominee used this phrase to frame a leaked dialogue where he bragged about how his wealth and status allow him to do whatever he wants to do whatever to women in his presence. Let’s make something immediately clear: this is not "locker room talk." This is bragging about rape.
But we should know that.
However, the Republican nominee insisted his predatory braggadocio was casual male dialogue and "locker room talk." This phrasing turned the lens on the atmosphere of professional sports and the general effects of actual locker room talk. The days following his unsurprisingly misguided comments, athletes were interviewed to great lengths about locker room talk. Across all sports and teams, the general consensus was that a lot of leaders in locker rooms found Trump’s comments abhorrent and that men did not only not brag about raping women with their peers, but that type of language would immediately be met with harsh backlash. Surprise! Most leaders, or people claiming to be, do not think rape is appropriate. Unlike the Republican nominee.
However, national politics aside, when thinking about a lot of these athletes rejection of this type of blatant, sexually violent language, it is hard to dismiss the presence of domestic violence and sexual violence that plagues professional sports. Just yesterday, The New York Daily News broke a story about Giants kicker and noted domestic abuser, Josh Brown and a diary he kept documenting the long time abuse of his wife, Molly Brown. Molly Brown has been violently accosted by brown over 20 times, including times while she was pregnant with their child seven years ago.
Brown was arrested in May of 2016, and the Giants knew about the arrest and the extent and brutality of the accusations against him. The Giants gave him a new contract, implying Molly Brown was a liar, and adamantly defended Josh Brown’s presence in the locker room. The league served Josh with a one-game suspension and ever since he has been kicking for the Giants without much hubbub from the media; all the while he has had full support from the ownership, the coaching staff and the players.
This blind eye being turned to Brown’s heinous actions become somehow more disgusting when you consider the Giants' open and unapologetic critique of Odell Beckham Jr., the team's best player and a league star’s, and his emotional behavior during games. Just to be clear, Beckham is performing tremendously for the Giants and the team has been more critical of him being a bit hot-headed (remember: he has broken no laws and hurt no one) than being openly critical of a man who documented, on his own, that he had "physically, verbally and emotionally abused [his] wife Molly."
But I am not just here to talk about how disgusting Donald Trump is or how repugnant Josh Brown and the Giants organization is. These are things you all should know.
SB Nation has recently taken on "It’s On Us" as a slogan to uphold during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic and Sexual Violence are an epidemic that has plagued women in this country and this world for too long. Unfortunately, that violence and disregard for women appears on a regular basis in the sports world.
Be it a politician (wrongly) assigning bragging about rape to sports culture, a kicker getting extended after being arrested for brutally assaulting a woman he is married to, a former MVP of the NBA claiming in a civil suit case he does not know what consent is and still being found non liable of rape, then taking pictures with all the jury members, the Eagles trading for an accused domestic abuser a few months after drafting one, the Cowboys giving a big one year deal to Greg Hardy, Patrick Kane being a poster boy in the NHL… The list goes on and on and on.
It is disgusting.
No, I do not buy that athletes need to be "model citizens" or people that children have to look up to. That is a weird standard to hold anyone to. However, the fact that people who are at the forefront of society -- politicians, athletes or otherwise -- can so unapologetically be rewarded in the face of obvious abuse is mind-numbing.
I have written before the positive impact sports can have, and we see the positive change brought about by the discussions revolving athletes protesting during the athletes. The visibility athletes have on a regular basis leads to influence.
The flipside of that is that when athletes, or anyone else of stature, are involved in a rape or domestic violence case, it appropriates what has become such a daily occurrence in America. Then, in defending these actions, fans and media perpetuate this rape and anti-woman culture. There are fans and writers debating consent, attacking victims, and saying that it shouldn’t even matter because they are athletes.
This is erasure. These women matter, their livelihood matters, and defending their abusers or attacking they themselves only does more to tell other abusers that they too will be defended by the masses. Be it Brock Turner, Joe Paterno, or Baylor University, these violent sexual criminals are protected by their prestige. Baylor athletes were shielded by the coaching to uphold a multimillion-dollar industry. Paterno aided a serial rapist because he was useful to keeping Penn State competitive. Brock Turner got mere months for rape, getting out of prison early, because of his "potential" and his position as a collegiate athlete at one of the country’s best schools…
It is all abhorrent. But you all know it.
Rape and domestic violence is a big part of American sports because it is a big part of America.
I am asking you all, as a man, to fellow men, to start taking initiative. "It’s On Us", to me, is about men’s responsibility to combat the horrific and systemic devaluation of female bodies. It is not just about individual acts of respect, though that is important, but it is also about vigilance.
It is about reacting to other men trying to sweep these transgressions under the rug, and making it clear that this behavior is not acceptable.
It is about acknowledging that there is no nuance to consent. There is no "she texted him the morning before" or "she was drunk and all over him" or any excuse like that. Consent is black or white, yes or no. It happens in the moment and it is not a hard thing to inquire about.
It is about not attacking the female writers in the sports world who want to discuss this violence (or anything else for that matter), but actually listening to them. Female sports writers offer an obviously unique perspective on these things and they deserve just as much a voice as male writers.
In terms of individual responsibility; it is about respect and, in the case of sexual encounters, consent. It does not matter if you are with someone for a night or a year: consent has the same parameters and must be adhered to. Even better, be sure to check in with a partner periodically to make sure they are comfortable with any given situation. The only thing that is consent is consent itself. Nothing can be insinuated.
I am coming at this issue earnestly because I am saddened and disturbed by the amount of women that have been affected by rape and domestic violence and continue to be afflicted by it. I want to do something about it, and if having this conversation is necessary to even change a few minds, it is working in the right direction.
When this type of violence is constantly in the news cycle, sports or otherwise, there has to be a collective effort to fight it.
I am asking you, men, to join me in not only becoming and remaining vigilant regarding these abuses and the representation of them in the media, but also listening to women more about the struggles they face. We can only change what we know must be changed, and the knowledge of these issues will come from those affected by it.
Lastly, don’t "Not All Men" me. That is bullshit. "Not All Men" is the "All Lives Matter" of sexual violence and domestic abuse. Of course not all men are horrible human beings, just like of course all lives matter. However, by dismissing violence just because "not all men" you’re refusing to engage in critical conversation about how an unfortunate plurality of men do act. The best way to come at this discussion, like any discussion, is an open mind and a willingness to admit moments where you are at fault.
I am a 20-year-old man, and an actor in one of the world’s biggest cities. A week ago I heard stories told first hand about sexual violence that shook me to my core. I cried. I cried a lot, actually. I wanted to help. I had no idea the prevalence of this violence and the sheer volume of women affected. I sat their, wallowing in my own guilt before I realized that guilt was self-serving. It did nothing for anyone, except maybe convince myself for a moment that I am an okay person. The reality is that guilt is not enough. It takes action to make changes. That is why I am speaking to you personally like this. We, as men, need to come together to enter in critical dialogue about how poorly women are treated and talked about in various circles.
There is a movement to change the way women are treated and change the way we talk about sexual assault in sports and all spheres of society.
It’s on us to make that change.