On Sunday, a headline popped up in my timeline that immediately grabbed my attention. It read: “Rape activist says Baylor should cancel season.”
Earlier this year, immediately after Baylor fired Coach Art Briles, I weighed in on the situation. I said then (and still maintain now) that firing Briles was the right move for the university.
Since then, there have been many people within the program and even just fans of the Baylor football team that have come forward to say they feel differently. They feel that Briles didn’t do anything serious enough to warrant losing his job. After all, this is a sexual assault issue, not a football issue.
I hate to break it to you, but this is a football issue if those accused of said sexual assaults are football players. They made it a football issue even though it usually wouldn’t be one.
So now that we’ve established that this is, in fact, a football issue, let’s get back to what I started off this article by mentioning. A rape activist, who spoke to the Baylor football team this summer, is calling for the university to cancel the remainder of its football season. Even as a sexual assault survivor myself, I think that’s a completely ridiculous idea.
Oh, but Harvard canceled the remainder of the men’s soccer season after a much less serious sex-based scandal. So clearly this wouldn’t be overkill in this situation, right? Wrong.
That was most definitely overkill in the Harvard situation. And it would be overkill for the Baylor football program, too.
I understand the idea of actions and consequences. But the consequences for actions should be reasonable. In this case, the intentions of the team wearing black can’t even be proved. So how in the world could they make the leap to cancel the rest of the season?
They just couldn’t. Yes, fans did purchase and wear black shirts with #CAB (Coach Art Briles) on them. Yes, the players did opt for a blackout instead of the originally planned green out.
Do I believe that the team wearing black was not intended to make a statement about the former coach? No. The countless tweets in support of Art Briles say otherwise. The university probably just swooped in with the narrative of innocence to cover its behind.
But can any of us prove that the team wore black with the intention of protesting Briles losing his job? No. You cannot punish them for something you can’t prove they did.
Was it insensitive to wear black uniforms given the fact that fans had planned to wear black in support of Briles? Probably. But insensitivity isn’t something we should cancel a football season over. It’s an oversight at the very least, but it shouldn’t be the death sentence for a football season.
There can be other consequences for the team anyways. Force more sexual assault seminars down the players’ throats (because that clearly works). Require a team apology to the victims. Suggest community service hours for those who spoke out in favor of Briles. There are many options that are less extreme but still send a message.
And the message I’m talking about isn’t really for the players. The message is for the victims of sexual assault, still scarred from their horrifying experiences. The message would show them that Baylor will not tolerate sexual assault and will not support anybody who does.
Sure, canceling the season would do that. But what about the people who don’t tolerate sexual assault and are involved in the football program? How about the business owners who count on football games to boost revenue on Saturdays in November? What about the people at the university who benefit from the money generated by the football games? What about the young fans looking forward to these games all season?
At the end of the day, the football games do more good than harm. Canceling the season, on the other hand, would do much more harm than good.
But it’s 2016 and people in America are so sensitive that they think the rest of a football season should be canceled because feelings got hurt. Don’t get me wrong, the feelings of those sexual assault survivors are important. But canceling the rest of Baylor’s games won’t soothe the wounds created by being personally violated.
Try something else. Make a heartfelt apology, and then make sure that players and fans alike respect those victims the rest of the season. Do that and maybe we can all move forward.
You can email Kristen at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.
Photo: Daniel Huizinga, Flickr