By Ken Reed

Linebacker DeAndre Levy of the Detroit Lions has written an eye-opening and courageous essay in The Players’ Tribune about the warped sense of what it means to be a man that many of his fellow NFL players hold. He outlines a view about women that pervades the world of male athletics in general, and the National Football League (NFL) in particular.

Levy penned his article in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. He writes about how our society tends to look at professional athletes as models of masculinity due to their athletic ability. In reality, a large percentage of pro athletes are incredibly immature human beings who tend to measure their manhood based on their sexual conquests, physical strength and power, and how much money they make. They don’t cultivate their sense of manhood based on the strength of their relationships (What kind of husband are you? What kind of father are you? What kind of brother are you? What kind of son are you? What kind of friend are you?) or a life purpose greater than their own desires. Instead, for too many male athletes, a large part of their self-esteem is based on how many females they can conquer.

Levy passionately says that mindset has to change.

“As a society, we need to get more serious about this,” writes Levy.

“The issue of sexual assault is a lot more nuanced than what most men think. We need to teach young men how to be allies — explain to them the emotional and psychological effects that abuse victims often carry with them for their entire lives. We need men to understand that there are likely women close to them who have experienced an assault and never told a soul.”

As Levy points out, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 70% of sexual assaults are never reported. For the ones that are reported, nearly 98% of assailants will never spend more than a day in jail. Those are incredibly scary and sad numbers.

“The embarrassment, guilt, blame and potential shaming that can come about from reporting one of these crimes is a big part of what enables this culture,” writes Levy.

Obviously, sexual assault isn’t just a male athlete problem. It’s a major societal issue. However, the false and dangerous definitions of masculinity that are too often bred in male athletic cultures need to be addressed head on in a very public way.

“This isn’t about the NFL,” writes Levy.

“It’s much bigger than that. But I’m asking my fellow athletes to take this opportunity to step up. As professional athletes, we have the prominence in our communities to effect real change. When we talk, people listen. So in a sense, our general silence on this issue is condoning it.

“So let’s change that. Speak out with me. Man up.”

Well done Mr. Levy.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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