By Ken Reed
The sexual assault case involving Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, along with the light six-month sentence he received, has brought the problem of sexual assault on college campuses — especially those involving college athletes — back into the national spotlight.
The perpetrators of sexual assault on college campuses certainly aren’t all athletes, but they are a big part of the problem. Just recently, sexual assault scandals at Baylor, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, in addition to Stanford, have been in the news.
First, my thesis: College athletic administrators and coaches aren’t doing nearly enough to prevent the athletes under their leadership from committing rape and other sexual assault crimes. In fact, too often they inadvertently feed the false manhood culture that breeds the type of thinking that can lead to sexual assault. Moreover, this false manhood culture isn’t just a college sports phenomenon. It begins to be cultivated at pre-adolescent ages.
Joe Ehrmann is a former Baltimore Colts star defensive lineman. Today, the author of InsideOut Coaching, tours the country talking to sports teams, athletic departments and other groups about coaching, the purpose of sports and false concepts of manhood. He says boys in this country, especially athletes, grow up believing that manhood in America is defined by three fundamental cultural lies: 1) How athletic you are; 2) How much money you make, and 3) How many sexual conquests you have.
For the purposes of this column, let’s focus on number three.
“In our culture, adolescent boys learn that being a man has something to do with sexual conquest,” writes Ehrmann in InsideOut Coaching. “What does it mean to be a man? It means seducing girls to gratify personal physical needs and to validate one’s masculinity. That certainly doesn’t make anyone a man; instead, it makes one a user of other human beings … Coaches need to provide a clear and compelling definition of what it really means to be a man who exhibits empathy, trustworthiness, friendship, ethics, respect, and joy.”
Unfortunately, most male coaches, especially coaches of men’s sports teams, came of age themselves in a culture that perpetuated the same myth of masculinity — sports, sex, and money — that we’re dealing with today. And while most college coaches of men’s sports teams will put up sexual assault awareness posters they’ve been given in their locker rooms, and talk briefly about the subject in a team meeting or two, most will also adopt a “boys will be boys” approach to their players’ dysfunctional interactions with females. They will also condone derogatory language against women and those in the LGBT community with a quick wink, and/or by looking the other way.
“When you view a group of people as inferior or defective, you treat them as such,” writes Ehrmann.
A lot of work needs to be done in this country to change a male sports culture that spawns way too many cases of sexual abuse and assault. Certainly, more needs to be done at the college level. Players — along with coaches and administrators — need more education on sexual assault. Questions like “What is consent and what isn’t?” need to be addressed head on. These educational programs also need to talk about the important role bystanders can play if they have the courage to intervene when they see developing instances of sexual assault.
However, in the long run, this educational effort must start at an earlier age. We must educate our young male athletes — those at the little league and middle school levels — about respect and what defines real manhood.
Future rapes on college campuses can be prevented with educational initiatives today that target boys on the verge of adolescence. The overarching theme of these initiatives needs to be outlining, in depth, what real manhood looks like.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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