“Sports At All Costs” and Sexual Assault Apologism in Philomath, Oregon.
Last summer, a massive scandal erupted in my 4,000 person hometown of Philomath, Oregon, as six football players and an assistant coach were charged (and eventually convicted) of various crimes related to hazing of a sexual nature at a team camp.
The Philomath School Board, to their credit, made the correct decision to cancel the varsity season of football, while the investigation was underway, facing hostility and testimony from parents who wanted to downplay the allegations, protect the kids, and protect the football program.
After the kids were convicted, the same parents pushed for those kids to be “forgiven,” for the football team to be reinstated, and for the school to be lenient on the kids who were “already punished.” Those parents organized to elect school board candidates.
There was quite literally a movement in my hometown to elect candidates who minimized sexual assault, just to prevent damage to the football team.
The kicker? In the 3–4 way school board elections this spring, most of them won under slim pluralities. They came one seat short of winning a majority on the council. Veteran school board members lost their elections for showing political courage, and suspending a football season, even if it was an unpopular decision.
Now, a Corvallis football player has been charged with rape, and people are once again coming out of the woodwork to defend the kid, saying that he shouldn’t be kicked off the team merely for being “accused.”
While I certainly believe in the concept of innocence until proven guilty and the rights of the accused, it shouldn’t be controversial for someone accused of a crime to be removed from a recreational opportunity that fundamentally is a privilege, not a right, particularly if the crime is violent. Luckily, in Corvallis’s case, only one kid is being charged, and the crime doesn’t appear to be related to his football position.
In almost any company, employees accused of financial crimes, let alone a violent crime, are put on administrative leave after an accusation. It shouldn’t be controversial for a school to cancel a sports season while it investigates years of sexual misconduct. It shouldn’t be controversial to suspend kids from school after they have been convicted of violent crime or harassment.
We need to stop kidding ourselves, the lobby pushing to “protect” those kids are largely doing so because of their motivated reasoning to protect sports teams. There is a culture of “sports at all cost” in America, and it appears that even Corvallis is not immune.
That “sports at all cost” mentality has consequences. The public turning a blind eye to hazing in the name of sports resulted in years of a culture of sexual assault at Philomath High School sports, with victims refusing to come forward, for fear of public backlash, and easy treatment on the perpetrator.
Philomath is not alone. There are many, many more sports teams in towns across the US that are engaged in hazing, and the culture that enables it has to stop.