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male athletes
real jerks or victims?
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)
12.24.06
sports

Male athletes have quite the reputation for being smooth with the ladies, and why not? My knees buckle at the mere glimpse of a soccer player at work on the pitch, controlling the ball, scoring that amazing goal with an expert kick originating from strong and muscular legs… Yes, I have a thing for soccer players.

In light of the latest developments with the Duke University fiasco, incident, scandal, whatever it is you want to label it, I’m wrestling with a few things that affect college and professional athletes.

To give a bit of background information about Duke and its scandal, it’s basically the cliché story of rich college athletes, in this case, Lacrosse players, who hired an exotic dancer to entertain them one night. A night of typical exotic dancing and stuffing dollar bills in g-strings ended with a sticky case of race, alcohol, drugs, class, rape and kidnapping. Controversy is surrounding the case and causing a media frenzy, because the players accused of rape are three white guys, whom the exotic dancer, a black woman from a neighboring school, says raped her just because she was black.

According to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! a year at Duke University costs $41,000, the median income for Durham, NC. Obviously, those athletes and their parents can afford to get lawyers that could make the devil look like a victimized angel. Then again, the Duke rape victim herself has gone back and forth and changed her story about her mental state during the incident, changing the amount of alcohol she’d consumed and mixing a muscle relaxant into the equation somewhere along the way. As I said earlier, this case is sticky and filled with issues I don’t feel qualified or even inclined to cover. I’m using the Duke case to set the background for something a little more general, a little simpler than race and drugs and changing stories.

Athletes getting tangled up in sexual assault cases aren’t just an American thing. It seems to be a problem in Europe too. Lookup soccer bios and you will likely find that a few of the big names have been accused of sexual assault, sometimes held for questioning, but almost never charged. Take for example Portuguese Manchester United soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo. He apparently was taken in for questioning last year for sexual assault. He denied the allegations, and was let off because there wasn’t any sufficient evidence. Also in 2005, the Dutch soccer player, Robin Van Persie of Arsenal, was accused of rape. He also was released for lack of evidence, following an investigation by Dutch police.

I can’t help but ask—are these athletes just rich and charming enough to get away with crimes like rape, or are they victims and being “taken advantage of”, because of the stigma we have attached to athletes; that they're "jocks" and can get anything they want?

I look at male athletes and see them with gorgeous, envied women. I see athletes demand an extra $5 million, because they’ve scored enough goals, touchdowns, hits or slam dunks to make them MVP’s, if not to the world, then to themselves. I’ve seen athletes become national heroes and idols to their fellow countrymen for scoring that one goal in the World Cup. Why wouldn’t they use that power to do what they wanted to whomever, knowing that at the end of the day, they’d walk away clean?

Then again, I see athletes doing amazing things with their “power”.

Following the tsunami disaster that hit parts of East Asia, the above-mentioned Ronaldo flew out to Indonesia and raised about $120,000 for tsunami victims by auctioning off his personal sports gear. He also paid the airfare for a tsunami survivor, an Indonesian boy and his father to watch a 2005 World Cup qualifier game, and also contributed to a fund to help build a house for the pair in Indonesia. Not to mention the long list of world famous soccer players (I only follow soccer, so excuse the lack of examples from other sports) who work with UNICEF and other organizations that fight poverty and other issues that affect the world.

I can’t help but wonder, and wonder even more if I’m just missing the discussion panels held about the issues in question: Are these athletes just rich and charming enough to get away with crimes like rape, or are they victims of stigma? Are the women pressing these charges the victims, and these athletes are using their good looks and status to have their way with women whom they know are incapable socially or financially to incriminate them?

The information I’ve compiled leaves me with more questions than answers, and the more I think about it and ask the questions, the more I’m left scratching my head. In the meantime, I will continue to follow the soccer championships in Europe, admiring form and style with the hope that my favorite players score and help my favorite teams win.



ABOUT REEM AL-OMARI

Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari

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COMMENTS

tracey kelley
12.28.06 @ 12:21p

I have a hard time with the salaries paid to athletes and celebrities in general. Talent and prowess -do- matter, but there's no account for character. So we should just let someone do as he/she pleases because we find him/her entertaining?

juli mccarthy
12.29.06 @ 9:59a

I think it is both. These young athletes hear that they're "the greatest" so often that they start to believe that they are untouchable and exempt from the rules that apply to lesser humans, and there will always be people who glom on to the cash-cow value of victimhood.



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