Dear Frank DeFord, meet your new friend, Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. Perhaps he knows your other friend Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, accused of sexually assaulting a 20 year-old girl, who you defended as just “boys being boys” in your editorial on NPR last week.
Okay, in fairness, Roethlisberger was cleared of all charges and DeFord didn’t literally say boys will be boys (read the full article here, and listener commentary here). He questioned the logic of Roethlisberger’s suspension following the charge, saying “let the thugs play,” ultimately minimizing the ‘badness’ of his behavior by suggesting “at least he wasn’t packing a firearm.”
The point of DeFord’s commentary was that while these kinds of behaviors were reprehensible, the real problem was not with the actions of the athletes, but with fans who expected athletes to be good role models. “To what earthly benefit is it to suspend Roethlisberger? Does it teach little, impressionable children a lesson?”
I hope it teaches children that our society values all of its members, and that our cultural value system demands a 0% tolerance for violence against women.
DeFord is a decorated sportscaster, sportswriter, and author. But, in the world of intercultural communications and inclusion, his tone hearkens of a Northern European, anglo, male sense of privilege that disregards the experience of anyone who falls outside of that ‘norm.’
Take that disregard to an institutional level and you have college campuses that excuse illegal behavior from athletes and a legal justice system that blames the victim.
How ironic that the title of one of DeFord’s books is The Entitled.
What do you think? How do our reactions to current events belie our values and unconscious biases? Does it look pretty?
Photo credits: Talyor, Chicago Tribune; DeFord and Roethlisberger, NPR