NFL leaders must Denounce Trump’s “locker room” excuse
Donald Trump and his anti-woman surrogates have spent the last week trying to convince voters that the American people should forgive and brush aside Trump’s bragging about serial sexual assault because it was mere “locker room talk.”
This kind of rhetoric normalizes rape culture in America, plain and simple. When Trump offers his “locker room talk” excuse, he’s asking for society’s permission to joke, boast or simply connect with other people by talking about the appearance, conquest, harassment and even the sexual assault of women. If we allow this, we’re not just permitting the speech, we’re also implicitly legitimizing the behaviors described by it — behaviors that demean and endanger women.
Some athletes are already pushing back hard on Trump, trying to draw a bright line between his comments and what they have seen during their time in locker rooms. It’s important that they are taking a stand but there’s more they can — and should — do.
That’s why we’re calling on professional athletes, coaches, leaders and officials, starting with those in the NFL, to use their status and their platform to not only expose Trump’s “locker room” lie but denounce our culture of sexism and misogyny.
The role of professional athletes in pushing for important social change has already been a feature of this year’s NFL season thanks to Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the national anthem in support of the movement for Black lives. Football is the most watched and most popular professional sport in the country. If high-profile NFL players and league leaders take a meaningful stand against Trump and the culture of misogyny and sexism he has legitimized and promoted throughout his career and presidential campaign, they can play a powerful role in moving the national conversation about misogyny and rape culture.
Trump’s remarks provide an opportunity for the NFL, a league where violence against women has been an obvious, long-term problem and that has a history of shying away from meaningful punishments for domestic abuse, sexual assault and violence against women, to be a true ally. But there are worrying signs that the most prominent people in the NFL may duck the problem altogether.
One of the league’s biggest stars, New England Patriots quarterback and Trump supporter Tom Brady, recently fled from reporters when asked to comment on Trump’s locker-room excuse.4And while some players have spoken out, the highest-profile players, coaches and league officials have been mostly silent. This stands in contrast to the NBA where Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James and Los Angeles Clippers coach and NBA great Doc Rivers have both denounced Trump’s remarks.5
A clear and unequivocal statement from the NFL’s most prominent individuals — among them Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith — would be a big step toward changing America’s culture of misogyny and rape.
This is not about forcing the NFL to play politics. The people defending Trump are using an idealized notion of the “locker room” as a proxy for an all-male space where “boys will be boys.” They’re promoting a culture that allows athletes, bosses, superstars and men all over the country to demean, harass and assault women without consequence. Prominent NFL voices have a responsibility to speak out against it.
Thank you for speaking out.
Originally published at act.credoaction.com.