No Preferential Treatment For Abusive Sportsmen By Cheryl Roberts

15 Feb


ImageIf it’s not our sportswomen being abused and murdered, then it’s our sportsmen doing the abusing and murdering.

As shocking as the news is of Oscar Pistorius killing his girlfriend, people must not think that sportsmen do not contribute to statistics on violence against women. The reality is that sportsmen have abused and murdered women. There exists a plethora of sportsmen who are abusers.

And, amongst these statistics are many South African sportsmen, some of whom are guilty of abusing sports girls when they coached them, of abusing their wives/girlfriends and even of murdering them, some have raped women, whilst others have molested and abused girls and women within sport and in their personal spaces outside of sport.

It’s sad to think that it might take a woman’s death, engineered by a Paralympian champion shooting her down with four gun shots, to wake up South African sport and to galvanise into action, a national programme of action spearheaded by sport with the objective of eliminating abusive behaviour of sportsmen who violate women’s bodies and commit violence against women.

Within its ranks, sport has a litany of abuse against women, committed by sportsmen, particularly high profile, champion sportsmen. Despite sportsmen being abusive, sport has not profiled and put the spotlight on abuse and violence against women. But then again what do we expect when sport’s leadership and officialdom are dominated by men. After all, violence and abuse is committed by men, very few of them admitting their weaknesses and deficiencies.

Sport must understand that sportsmen are not separated from society. What they do on the sports stage may make them seemingly invincible and extraordinary at times. But when they commit violence against women, then their sports prowess does not exempt them from being treated accordingly as an abusive man.

There is this feeling or assumption that high profile sportsmen are treated differently when they commit violence against women; their sports adulation status protecting them from being seen as the abusers, thugs and rapists that they are.

We have heard of young male rugby, football and cricket players raping women, we know of high profile sportsmen murdering their partners, we have been publicly informed of sportsmen violently abusing women. Yet sport pushes this away, like it doesn’t concern sport.

Sportsmen who commit violent crimes against women, who are abusive towards women, who rape and assault women, must not be given preferential treatment by society, the media or legal system just because they are high profile or world champion sportsmen.

Any man, no matter what he’s achievements in life becomes an abuser when he is abusive towards any woman. And these abusive men, including sportsmen, must be condemned for their abuse.

Whilst representatives of society’s power and interest groups, may impose their view of a violent and abusive incident against a woman, we as society must not allow a victim of abuse to be treated as if she’s ‘nothing’ or has ‘no status’.

This opinion of mine is in reaction to the killing of a girlfriend, who is Veera Steenkamp, by her boyfriend, who happens to be Oscar Pistorius, one of the world’s great Paralympians and which has expectedly shocked the world.

Hopefully, it has not only also shocked sport, the organised structures around and within which sport is played and consumed, to understand and acknowledge that abuse, assault and violence against women is committed by sportsmen. Hopefully, this horrific death involving one of South Africa’s famous sportsmen will also split open the silence of sport on violence against women.

As much as we consume sport, we should not be desperate to have any sportsman as a hero because he is a champion. Performances of sportsmen on the sports stage is one thing, but their behaviour outside of sports participation must not be exempted from public condemnation when they abuse women. Applauding a sportsman for his sports prowess is admirable, but never can his wrongdoings be excluded because of his sports adulation status.

And what this means is that sportsmen who abuse, assault and rape women, who murder women, who violate women’s bodies, must be given the same whipping and face legal action, as any other person in society.

Sport is not just about playing the game, about winning titles and medals. It’s about the social positioning of people in society and everything associated with living in society. With so much abuse around it, no longer can sport remain quiet and be silent. Several instances of abuse have surfaced within world sport and in South African sport; yet sports officials have remained quiet, hoping it won’t enter the sports realm.

Abuse of women by sportsmen is very much evident within sport and this must be challenged and eliminated.

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