I talked briefly to the owner of my local dairy about the recent controversy surrounding the English team. A news article on the incident had just come on came on the TV he has in his store, and I laughed when the reporter said a ban on the team bringing girls back to the hotel would be in place "sometime next year".
The dairy owner was dubious about why a young girl was out drinking without being I.D.ed (no talk of her being 18 would sway his thoughts). I imagine he would've called her a harlot if he didn't think it would offend me. He also blamed the Hilton for allowing the players to bring back women of obvious ill-repute. I began to feel a bit like I was on sports talkback so I paid for my bread and left.
I've written maybe a dozen pieces on this issue and rewritten each one before scrapping it (and this is hardly the best effort). To state the obvious, rape is a sensitive issue and cases like this one (high profile sports person accused of raping a girl, while they claim consensual sex) are not new.
Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, and many others. Some have been convicted, a large majority have not. During the high profile case of Kobe Bryant of 2003, USA Today had a look back and found that from 1990 to 2003 there were 168 allegations of sexual assault against athletes.
"Of those 168 allegations, involving 164 athletes, only 22 saw their cases go to trial, and only six cases resulted in convictions. In another 46 cases, a plea agreement was reached."
So what does that mean? Did they really happen? Were these high-profile sports people being extorted? The whole argument gets really messy really quickly.
The Englishmen involved in this most recent incident are not talking to the police because they don't have to. Is that a sign of guilt? The girl hasn't laid a formal complaint. Is that a sign of forgery? Does the fact that another of the girls sold her story of her experience for $12,000 mean anything?
Back in the USA, in 2006 three members of the Duke University lacrosse team were accused of the rape of a stripper hired at a team party. All three players were innocent and were eventually found to be so. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and stated that the charged players were victims of a "tragic rush to accuse." The prosecutor was later was disbarred for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation." But it was only at the end of this case that people began to realise the players were being strung up. Prior to that emotions ran high.
Accusations went in both directions. Media commentators were angry that the players continued to be involved in matches: "I'm so glad they didn't miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape!" This all changed to "what an evil prosecutor" afterwards.
I personally have a lot of latent guilt about that case. I didn't believe Kobe was innocent, I remembered the Colorado football team that sexually assaulted the female kicker on their team (which was entirely sickening) and so when I heard of the lacrosse team my gut feeling was "guilty".
But how do the players deal with the aftermath? Being found not guilty does not mean the public and your fans have come to the same conclusion. What do you do?
If you're Kobe Bryant you have to play at MVP level for the next five years and hope that people remember you for something else. If you're Mike Tyson, you go nuts and do other horrible things so everyone forgets the first horrible thing you did. Most will fade into obscurity, which may be the best.
Just like there's no easy way to discuss this topic there's no easy way to end it, and so I'd like to mention cricket.
At the last world cup the English cricket team went on a bit of a bender (and who can blame them in the middle of the dull tournament) and what happened? They ended up drunk, looking like fools, telling tourists to take photos of them, one of them stole a pedal-boat and two of them started pashing each other. Now that is how you party!