I always find it depressing when people I respect do something that destroys that respect. When it's something like this – LaMichael James' recent arrest for domestic violence – it's particularly depressing; added to my disgust and loss of respect is the plentiful ammunition it gives to my friends who object to the violence of football and the adulation so freely given to sports stars.
For context, here's what I like about the guy:
So added to the injury to Courtney Eckhart is the insult to all Duck fans: Do we really want this guy on the team?
More important, perhaps, is the question that arises: Why do so many star athletes get into this kind of trouble?
On Feb. 11, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Kim Reed, who used to be Paul McKerrow.* That's not the non sequiter it seems on first glance – check out the video clip on the link. Paul had some pretty good football highlights, too. I'm bringing her up here because of something she said on the interview: She said she was glad she was born and raised as a boy because it gave her a sense of possibility and entitlement she would not have learned as a girl, though if she had to do it over again she'd transition earlier. She wants all girls to have that sense of entitlement. I can relate; my own sense of male entitlement, inculcated even in my much more awkward boyhood, still colors every aspect of my social interaction – so much, in fact, that I think it is just as important as my non-menstrual biology in guaranteeing that I won't ever have the complete experience of womanhood in our culture. Probably more so. And believe me, that's not necessarily a bad thing - rather, perhaps it is some compensation for the positive experiences of womanhood I've been denied.
The Patriarchy creates and supports this sense of male entitlement that is, to most men, invisible and taken for granted. This entitlement manifests itself in our society in various ways: as the "dominator" model of social interaction Riane Eisler identifies in "The Chalice and the Blade;" and as Rape Culture (see also my previous post and here).
I think that male entitlement is a key to understanding why so many athletes make such poor choices, but that doesn't satisfy me. That answer leads me to another question: Is this sense of entitlement inherent and inevitable? Is there a way to have football, with all its inherent violence and encouraged aggression, without the entitlement? Or am I wrong, and it's just a guy thing?
I don't think it's a guy thing. Too many men act responsibly. I think these poor choice are connected to Rape Culture. And that begs the question: Is football itself connected to Rape Culture and male entitlement?
I don't think so.
But I'm not sure.
And that pisses me off.
(*My boss at work is Kim's cousin. He copied the interview and shared it with me. I wasn't able to find it on the web, but if you can find it somewhere, it's worth watching.)