Wednesday, August 12, 2009

C.R.E.A.M. (Claim Rape to Earn Athletes' Money)

This is a sports blog, primarily. Sports are supposed to be the shallow end of the pop culture spectrum. Endless arguments about which quarterback is better, debates on whether or not Shaq could have overpowered Wilt, and rants about how Hank is still the home run king are supposed to be as deep as we get.

Instead, I'm preparing to talk about rape. Dammit.

Let me preface by saying that I have a family member who has been a rape victim. Shortly after high school, I also went on a couple of dates with a girl who had been raped by an ex-boyfriend. Residual trust issues forced that relationship to end before it could even really get started.

But even with this kind of insight, I still can't pretend that I can ever even come close to understanding what rape can do to a woman's psyche. Anger, guilt, and distrust are only a few of the stew of emotions that can derail hopes for a happy, loving relationship later in life.

But in the wake of the Ben Roethlisberger accusation and the Rick Pitino extortion case, the phrase "rape culture" has entered my personal lexicon for the first time, and I'm not too sure how to feel about it.

When the Big Ben civil suit became public, we had a rather brief discussion of it on EWB. I and a few others smelled bullshit right off the jump. Turns out, we might be pretty close to the truth, but more on that later.

In retaliation, my friend Razor (go read him at American Razor and Kick-Out Wrestling) posted this article, entitled "When Sports Culture Meets Rape Culture."

Razor's reasoning, in a prior EWB posting, is one I completely agree with. To quote him:

There's definitely some shady business associated with this, but either way it pisses me off. It pisses me off when women falsely accuse men of rape, but it also pisses me off when people automatically assume "this whore just wants money!"

The entire business of sexual assault in and of itself should be enough to piss anyone off, but that's not the point here. The point is that there wouldn't be that automatic assumption of "this whore just wants money" if there weren't so many cases where, well, the whores just wanted money.

Roethlisberger's former teammate Jerome Bettis had a similar accusation leveled in 2002, but no charges came about. According to the Westmoreland County District Attorney, there was "clear" evidence that the accuser's family intended to extort money from Bettis.

Rick Pitino was forced to contact the FBI when his now-admitted one-night stand, Karen Cunagin Sypher, began to hit him up for cars and tuition for her children, then simply went Randy Moss on him and asked for "straight cash, homie." To the tune of $10 million, no less.

When the Kobe Bryant case was ramping up back in 2004, USA Today studied 168 cases of sexually based criminal accusations against professional athletes in the 12 years following Mike Tyson's 1992 rape conviction. Only 32% of those ended in either convictions, guilty pleas, or plea agreements to lesser charges. Many of those were against either:
  • former professional athletes who weren't All-Star caliber talents in their day;
  • college athletes;
  • or boxers whose careers were either winding down or finished.
What's the difference, you ask?

Straight cash, homie.

If a college athlete is accused of rape, how is an accuser going to profit? Most likely, they're not. College athletes are, for the most part, broke college kids, just like anyone else.

If a washed-up, broken-down boxer is accused of rape, how likely is an accuser to profit? Most boxers aren't renowned for their financial savvy even before ten to fifteen years of getting their brains rattled by other men's fists.

If an NFL bench-warmer is accused of rape, there may be some money in it, but not nearly the kind that a Bettis or Roethlisberger or Pitino could command.

These cases are much easier to take seriously because there's not nearly as much motive to fabricate. And like it or not (and I personally don't, but these are the times we're living in), whenever a rich man is accused of a he-said-she-said crime, which rape quite often is, there is A LOT of motive.

Anyone who was read Aesop's fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf as a child is bred to be this cynical from toddlerhood.

The fable teaches us that not everything can be taken at face value. People lie. People concoct tales.

The boy who cried wolf was bored and wanted some excitement. Andrea McNulty was apparently hearing the ching-ching-ching of that child-support coin, if her co-worker's affidavit is to be believed.

While railing on "rape culture" for the cynicism surrounding athlete rape accusations, writers like Kate Harding and Jaclyn Friedman should give equal time to all the girls who have cried wolf...including Andrea McNulty and Karen Sypher. If victims are ignored or disbelieved, it's because there truly is a precedent.

We're not all insensitive clods who believe that every woman's asking for it every minute of every day. We all have mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, daughters, nieces, and none of us would experience anything but horror if they were involved in a case of this kind. But, we'd like to think that our family would contain the kind of people who would be more interested in justice than a payday, as well.

We don't put athletes and coaches on this ivory pedestal and think they can do no wrong. If anything, any person who holds athletes to even the minimum standards of typical people is hopelessly naive. Thousands of athletes over the decades have proven themselves to be shallow, immature, selfish, manipulative, greedy, and/or hedonistic.

Still, rich, famous, sexually promiscuous men have targets on their backs. If they were less sexually promiscuous, maybe they wouldn't have quite as many of these problems. Unfortunately, that's like asking a lion to go's just not part of their nature.

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