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 #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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