It seems like almost a weekly headline nowadays. People wake up in the morning and turn on Sportscenter or scroll twitter while eating breakfast, and another professional athlete has been accused of raping or beating a woman. The latest case is former Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley being accused of raping a woman just days before he was set to become a mid-first round NFL draft pick. The accusation didn’t seem to affect his draft position much because he was projected to go between 10 and 20 in most mock drafts, and the Oakland Raiders ended up taking him with the 24th pick. We’ll never know if this alleged rape caused teams to pass on Conley, but the Raiders said they did their homework on it and were confident he was innocent.
These stories are so common now that I think some people are almost numb to it and don’t really pay much attention. Some people immediately think that it’s another case of an arrogant and entitled young man being told “no” and not being able to handle it, so he takes matters into his own hands. Other people immediately think it’s just another woman chasing the spotlight or wanting to get revenge on a man who no longer wants to be with her but has millions of dollars that she wants. Where is the truth in this? History tells us it’s somewhere in the middle.
As a society, we have built up professional athletes to be superhuman. They make tons of money, are on TV, and are always seen with beautiful women. When kids are in high school or college and are perceived to have professional-level talent, all the students at school want to be around them, and family members come out of the woodwork to try to hang out with them and have a relationship with them.
They all want to be associated with the high-profile athlete, so they can be cool or have a claim to a piece of the pie when the athlete makes it big. There are stories of teachers letting athletes out off assignments and other students doing work for them, so they can be in the athlete’s good graces. Others will cover for them, so they don’t get into trouble and get suspended or kicked off of their team. Coaches may blur the lines or ignore certain rules to make sure their superstar can play.
All of these things can sometimes cause these athletes to feel like they are entitled, invincible, or above the law. Because people have looked the other way for them for so long, they feel like they can get away with anything or that they deserve everything they want. This can also carry over to their relationships with women and cause them to view women as disposable objects for their pleasure.
The athlete may not care if a woman says no because he feels entitled to anything he wants, and then he may force himself on her because all he cares about is his pleasure and getting what he wants. It also may cause him to snap quicker in an argument and get violent because he thinks that people should just listen to him and give in to him because he’s used to getting his way. He may even use his celebrity status to try to get out of trouble if he’s caught. Obviously these athletes are responsible for the choices they make and the actions they take, but I also feel that the people that didn’t hold them accountable for so long are also somewhat at fault.
Now for the other side of the story. For all of the athletes that actually rape and abuse women, there are also a large number that get accused of doing these things when they have done nothing wrong. Superstar athletes attract huge followings and sometimes plenty of attractive women that want to be around them for their fame and money. There have been stories of women who have made up incidents of athletes raping them because they had consensual sex, and then the guy decided he didn’t want to be with them anymore. Other long-term girlfriends may get upset over a breakup or their man starting to see another woman, or they are unable to accept they will no longer be able to afford the same lifestyle after being broken up with.
Other women hang out at bars and night clubs waiting for athletes to come in, so they can latch on and get some of their fame or money. Sometimes these women just really want to be with a guy because they like him or are attracted to him, but other women have bad intentions of just sleeping with an athlete for a story, trying to be in a relationship with him for his money, or getting pregnant for the resulting child support. Some of them are also very upset if they get turned down and make it their mission to get revenge.
I, for one, am tired of all of these stories and allegations. I don’t know for sure if the accusations against Conley are true or false, but he seems very confident that he’ll be cleared. He has supposedly passed a lie-detector test and has video that refutes some of the accuser’s story. Either way it turns out, I feel that stories like these are an indictment on our society. I know that we know have the technology to administer rape tests, and almost everything is captured on security cameras and phones. It’s a lot easier to find out the truth than it was a long time ago when things were more his word against hers in situations like this, but we still don’t always find out the truth.
I think it’s really sad that we sometimes worship athletes to a point where they think they can do whatever they want. I also think it’s terrible that some of these athletes treat women like objects and force themselves on these women just for their own personal pleasure, and I find it unsettling that there are women out there that will ruin a man’s reputation for fame, fortune, or revenge. We need to cultivate a change in our society where everyone is held to the same standard (even if they are talented and could make a lot of money), young men can be kind and respectful to women, and women can be trusted to not make up stories that ruin innocent young men’s reputations. We need to go back to focusing on teaching our children that honesty and respecting others are far more important than fame and money. Maybe then we can stop seeing these kinds of headlines.