Opinion

Sullivan: Football players should be held accountable for their actions



Imagine a case of sexual assault. A 9-1-1 call surfaces after a month of the case being in the mainstream news but a year after the survivor first reported the rape. The survivor had already identified the man who had raped her and DNA evidence had proven that he indeed had sex with her.

This guy was obviously convicted right?

Wrong.

Maybe if the assailant hadn’t been a Heisman finalist at the time he would have been charged, but because Jameis Winston led Florida State University to a stellar season, he walked.

I’m not here to argue against the innocence of Winston or other athletes accused of assault such as LaMichael James or (most recently) Troy Hill. I’m here to state the truth: many women don’t come forward after being sexually assaulted and the Winston case is a prime example of why.

This woman had the courage to come forward about her rape and to follow through with a trial.

What did she receive in return? The undying hate of Florida State fans, poorly reported stories and the media framing her as the “bad guy.”

Framing is extremely important in most aspects of life. And in this aspect, the media failed this woman and everyone who ever has or ever will suffer from sexual assault.

Instead of focusing on the fact that the survivor came forward over a year ago and identified Winston as the suspect January of 2013, before most Americans even knew who James was, many media outlets focused on the question: “Why is this case getting attention now that he’s a Heisman finalist?”

Or, as one insightful anchor on “Good Morning America” put it on Dec. 12, “I just want this one to go away.”

Let me repeat that.

One of the anchors from “Good Morning America,” the leading morning show in America, said that he wanted the story of the Winston case to “go away.”

And that statement right there encompasses one of the many reasons why feminism is still needed today. Without feminist groups like our very own Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team, we wouldn’t learn that the percentage of women who falsely report rape is very low and not any higher than any other false reporting of other crimes.

People in America actually argue that this woman accused Winston of the rape simply to get attention. Setting aside the ridiculousness and the offensive nature of this argument, if we were to remove one factor from Winston, a lot more Americans would be behind the survivor rather than the accused.

That factor is that he’s an athlete.

I’ve said before that athletes are put on a pedestal. Sometimes this has negative effects on the athlete, but this time the pedestal is having a negative effect on the community.

People quickly forgot (including myself) that James was convicted of strangling his girlfriend and was sentenced to 10 days in jail back in 2010. I hate that about my fandom and I hate that about your fandom, too.

If you’re reading this column and you cringe that I brought up our running back hero beat his girlfriend, you’re part of the problem.

It’s not just violent acts where athletes get off easy. Colt Lyerla still has the privilege of being drafted in the NFL after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. Any average person would have much more trouble finding success after being found with hard drugs.

In December, Troy Hill, back-up cornerback for University of Oregon, was arrested and charged with assault and strangulation. If Mark Helfrich wants to steer this program in the right direction, he should force Hill to face serious consequences. And if those consequences come, I hope that the fans at UO will act in a more respectable fashion than those at FSU did.

When it comes down to it, football is just a game, no matter how much money, time or media attention is put into it. Football should not trump the safety of women and it should not trump our judicial system. Athletes should be treated just like every other average American citizen.

As a life-long fan of the Ducks, I want our program to be successful and win a national championship just as badly as the next Duck fan. But I don’t want the win riding on the tailcoat of a quarterback who gets a free pass just because he’s an athlete.

@@http://m.espn.go.com/ncf/story?storyId=10082441&[email protected]@


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