What’s this? Two athletic-oriented Harpyness posts in one day? Strange but true. To pick up where PhDork just left off, I bring you a charmingly old-fashioned misogynist column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Thanks to our lovely reader who sent us the tip, which was quite enough to bring on a midweek migraine. The columnist, Ed Blazina, is concerned about allegations of rape that are made against professional athletes, especially on the heels of a woman accusing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of sexual assault. Blazina worries that the dudely dudes of the NFL and other pro sports organizations are all just sitting ducks for the nefarious machinations of women who have nothing better to do than lie about being sexually assaulted so they can grab money and attention.
Look, nobody is pretending that false rape allegations are never made. But Blazina seems to think that is the only issue here. He obviously doesn’t care about those athletes who have committed sexual assault (to say nothing of the women who were rape victims), because it’s a hell of a lot easier for him to stand on a soapbox and rail about the poor athletes who are accused of rape “Because they are high-profile performers, lightning rods who face temptations and risks when they interact with the public” — not, apparently, because they actually commit the crime. Blazina notes that “In many cases . . . incidents involve athletes on the road in hotels”, and includes a list of athletes accused of committing rape in hotel rooms, including Mike Tyson, who was actually convicted. Question: if you’re dedicating your column to proving that athletes are vulnerable to false accusations, why include Tyson to completely undermine your argument? Not only is the column offensive, it’s nonsensical.
Even the column’s title is enough to cause teeth-gnashing: “Athletes Susceptible to Sexual Allegations”. My guess is that Blazina will never write a corresponding column entitled “Women Susceptible to Sexual Assault and Objectification By Men, Athletes or Otherwise”. He quotes former football player Ralph Cindrich as saying “Unless a guy is going to be a monk, he’s going to go out and get involved with women. You never know what might happen. . . . Any time you are going to a golf event and you’re with a bunch of guys in a hotel, you’re open to something like this.” Congratulations, Mr. Blazina and Mr. Cindrich, you’ve accomplished a brilliant employment of a red herring. Blazina cites several cases that ended in criminal acquittals (think Kobe Bryant) or died before reaching court, conveniently ignoring that acquittals do not always equal innocence, just as convictions do not always equal guilt.
A December 2003 study by USA TODAY showed the difficulty in winning a criminal sexual misconduct case against an athlete. The newspaper found that in allegations involving 164 athletes during the previous 12 years, 22 cases went to trial and six resulted in convictions. Another 46 cases resulted in a guilty plea to a reduced charge.
Maybe, Mr. Blazina, there can be difficulty in winning these cases because we live in a culture that worships these men and, y’know, boys will be boys, men will be men, and women should know better than to be alone with these dudes. Or they have to be after money and attention. Or they’re bitter.
The column includes another quote from Cindrich, who says that “It’s an allegation that really only involves two people. Who else really knows?” Well, Ed Blazina thinks he knows! He wants women to stop victimizing the dudes of the sports world, these poor men who have left themselves vulnerable so that the women will end up pouncing. Really, this is not about the isolated Roethlisberger allegations as much as it is about the widespread belief that women who accuse famous men of sexual assault either got what they asked for or are just lying. Talk about dudely privilege.