Saturday, May 16, 2009

The shame of rugby league.

I would love to weigh in on the Matthew Johns furore, but since this blog is linked to my website and therefore occasionally visited by young students, I can't be as direct as I'd like to be. So I'll simply say this...

The trio of Matthew Johns, the second Sharks player, and the young woman involved entered into an arrangement that was consensual, at least at the beginning. That decision was, with the benefit of hindsight (and some might have seen it in foresight as well) clearly a foolish one. They didn't start out doing anything 'wrong' (I've avoided using the word 'immoral', because that's another issue altogether) but a whole world of wrong turned up later in the night.

What alarms me most is the vitriol being spewed in the direction of the girl. Apparently, according to many, many tiny-minded people, and at least one journalist, she got exactly what she was asking for. I don't agree. I suspect it was probably a booze-fueled experiment that became much more than she intended. Questions of morality aside, I don't think that girl signed up for what took place later on in the evening.

Is seven years too long to wait to report something traumatic? Probably. Except she didn't -- she reported it at the time. No charges were laid. No, of course not, because no laws were broken. But that doesn't mean that an abuse of power didn't occur. As twitterer babycakesjase said, 'how much agency does a single19 year old girl have surrounded by a bunch of footy players?'

Should one man take the fall for everyone else involved? Probably not. But I have a message for Matthew Johns: mate, your claim that you 'walked away' when things started going too far does not make you a hero. It does not give you the moral high ground. Quite the contrary. You helped create a situation, but didn't have the guts to speak up when it escalated to a level with which you were uncomfortable. You were a senior team member, and supposed to be a leader.

Some leader.


chrisbongers said...

The appalling rush to demonise someone who was a teenager at the time, has made me sick to my stomach. Thanks for your restrained and sensitive comments on the subject, James. Football players have enough power in our society, they do not need to be defended against the indefensible.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't have happened if these boys had a healthy attitude towards women or respect for themselves.

Unfortunately, the are people who enable this attitiude of men to dehumanize women to continue.

There are men who condone and cheer on this behaviour. There are women who turn against other women (blame the woman) to support men.

Anonymous said...

A balanced and sensible response.
Well said.

Kirsty Murray said...

Excellent post, James. As you point out, it takes more courage to speak out than to walk away - and isn't courage the most admired trait of any leader?