By Hannah Stein, JWI
Our society has a hypocrisy issue when it comes to violence against women. Yesterday concluded Sexual Assault Awareness Month— four weeks of explicit dedication to addressing sexual violence. Through heightened social media activism, White House engagement and cross-campus programming, awareness on the topic has spread nationwide. The month of April raised optimism surrounding the understanding of sexual violence, an issue that has gained noticeable attention in the past year.
This advocacy, however, conflicts with another societal message: athletes are above the law. Last night, former FSU quarterback Jameis Winston was selected as the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. In 2012, former FSU student Erica Kinsman accused Winston of sexual assault, filing charges against the athlete. After conducting a seemingly flawed investigation, the Tallahassee Police Department cleared Winston of the accusations. Kinsman shares her story in The Hunting Ground, a documentary exposing the epidemic of rape on college campuses.
Tomorrow night, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights Manny Pacquiao in what ESPN calls “The Fight of the Century.” Mayweather has a long history of domestic violence, including seven assaults against five women that led to arrests. The boxer’s violence does not wane outside of the ring; in 2010, he attacked the mother of his three children until his son called 911. Mayweather only served two months in jail.
What message does this send?
We just spent an entire month talking about sexual assault. Politicians, activists and survivors across the nation spoke out against the violence, debunking rape myths and challenging victim stereotypes. We emphasized saying #NoMore to sexual assault, highlighting the importance of bystander intervention.
But now we’re praising athletes like Winston and Mayweather?
We can’t have it both ways. We can’t advocate against sexual violence and then endorse athletes who perpetrate it. This mixed message is extremely confusing, especially for those who look at athletes as role models. If we want to truly address sexual assault, then we must fully commit to condemning it, even— no, especially when it comes to athletes.