'Dad, What is Rape?'

By Jim Wallis 02-09-2011

The Super Bowl was a good football game and the team I liked best won -- the Green Bay Packers. The team is owned by its city, not some narcissistic rich guy, and I like that. Besides, Aaron Rodgers is a good young quarterback. We had some friends over for Super Bowl Sunday and enjoyed good food and good fun; there were even some creative commercials, as is the custom.

But during the run-up to the game, my 12- and 7-year-old boys asked me, "Dad, what is rape and sexual assault?" because they had heard some of the commentary during the game about the Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. So I had to tell them about the reported behavior of Roethlisberger. In the incident in question -- the second such incident in a year, this time with a 20-year-old college student -- no criminal charges were filed. Tragically, a victim of sexual assault is less likely to file charges when a famous athlete is involved due to all the unjust scrutiny and accusations she will get. The NFL commissioner, nonetheless, suspended Big Ben for six games (later reduced to four) for violating league codes of conduct.

Michael Vick got two years in jail for torturing dogs, but it seems that these flashy athletes can get away with torturing women by having good lawyers, blaming the women, and/or eventually buying them off. As a coach of young athletes, I know how much the pro stars serve as role models, for good or ill. These players don't have to be saints, but allegations of sexual assault obviously cross the line into an area that can't be just swept under the rug.

The line that stuck in my craw, written by a sportswriter before the game, was that Roethlisberger might have been able to find redemption with a Super Bowl victory. Really? Win a football game and you are redeemed from reported actions of sexual assault? Despite how much I like Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, I really hoped Ben would lose the game. As a dad and Little League coach, I'm disgusted by Roethlisberger's behavior, and I wouldn't want a Super Bowl win that would be seen by anyone as "redeeming" it.

Then I heard that several Packers were also allegedly involved in incidents of sexual assault, and that's when I realized that this "boys will be boys" attitude will continue until professional sports has the moral conviction to suspend players from their teams and from their games

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