Thursday, August 13, 2015

Patrick Kane and the Rape Culture of Professional Sports

Once again, another professional athlete has been accused of rape. This time Patrick Kane, a world-renowned NHL hockey player with the Chicago Blackhawks is being investigated by suburban Buffalo police for an incident that took place last weekend.

This is not the first time Kane has been questioned for his outlandish behavior. He previously was convicted in 2009 for "roughing up" a cab driver along with his cousin. But, of course, he was only 20 years old at the time so he received a light sentence. After all, boys will be boys right?

Now 26, Kane was more recently commended by the Blackhawks organization for having "grown up" after they won the Stanley Cup in June. His response: “I know you said I’ve been growing up, but watch out for me the next week.” 

Many people have raised the issue about Kane's work hard, play hard approach to life. In particular they point out that he has not always exercised good judgment while drinking excessively. Some have said that he has a serious drinking problem. It is important to recognize, however, that not all alcoholics are rapists and not all rapists are alcoholics. Alcoholism should never be allowed to be used as an excuse for such actions. When Kane responded to having "grown up", he did not slur his words. He was stone cold sober when he adamantly stated that people should "watch out" for him.

What does the Blackhawks organization have to say now that they have egg on their face? Nothing. Complete silence. This is a legal matter, and since there is an ongoing investigation, they don't want to say or do anything that might jeopardize Kane's future, their on-ice success, (they have won 3 out of the last 6 Stanley Cups) and most importantly, their ability to make as much money as fast as they can. (Since this article was first written, Rocky Wirtz, the Blackhawks owner, has said Kane's behavior is "disappointing" while he (Wirtz) remains "hopeful." Hopeful for what? That this will all go away and Kane will be skating on the ice for the Blackhawks in October? Perhaps, if sports were not run on the basis of profit, his position might be a little different.

Athletes like Kane do not act the way they do solely in an individual vacuum. They have been enabled and encouraged to behave the way they do from an early age, as if it is their birthright. In fact,  ss I write this, it has just been announced that a group of fans/"activists" will be demonstrating on behalf of Kane and the falsely accused. 

One woman comments, "Why does it take rape and horrible events of sexual violence  to bring the outrage forward. It starts so much sooner - from the construction of gender and adoption of a gender identity form birth. Rape and violence are the end result of this and the result of  mass collective failure to recognize and expose this. Rape and physical violence are largely acts of enforcement of power and collective male authority over women and women identified persons. The rape of children and women is a mass phenomenon. The tiny moments of "little deaths" and daily rape of our minds and bodies are rarely even noticed let alone analyzed and brought to public consciousness."

She goes on to say, "In this sense, the historical world-wide everyday experience of oppression and violence by women, and people who identify as women, is absurd. It can only take on meaning in my mind if inserted into a discussion of the purpose it serves to maintain the social relations based on and in material economic relations of exploitation and dominance, competition and profit. The very same social relations are manifested as violent and life-destroying racism, homophobia, hatred and violence against the old and the disabled and on and on we go, it seems forever.

The unique aspects of woman hatred are displayed in more ways than we can imagine in our thoughtful moments. Economic exclusion, economic marginalization, objectification and ownership of our bodies, colonization of our thinking and our voices and lived experiences is often manifested in the internalized oppression and self-hatred when women as a group compete with and turn on our own.
The deformation of our bodies, denial of our rights to reproductive freedom, instances too numerous to detail. But physical and sexual violence against women, the logical result I guess of all the above, is the ultimate enforcer of ownership and  power, and remains the most difficult to understand, except as an act of enforcement." 

Already we are seeing the local media in Buffalo printing an interview with the bar owner where Kane met the "alledged" victim. He says that he has "no skin in the game" when he starts "slut shaming" her. However, this is not true. He benefits from taking Kane's side, By showing loyalty to him, he ensures that a valued customer will continue coming to his bar with friends and spending money there.

Of course, Kane does not stand alone in his behavior. Throughout the history of human civilization in every society and culture, women have been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment including rape, assault and being used as a cheap source of labor. Our modern day society in the U.S. is no different. Rapists come from all different backgrounds and communities but those sociopathic rapists who are wealthy have more power and control when it comes to social relations and interactions between men and women. This is not to excuse the behavior of working class men who commit such egregious behavior. They should be held fully accountable for their actions as well. Rather, it is to point out the double standards which exist when it comes to law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Is Patrick Kane being falsely accused or being denied due process, some people will say? Well let's consider that question for a minute. The odds that you will be falsely accused of rape are basically the same as the odds that you or someone in your family will be struck by lightning.
 Meanwhile, being raped is a societal problem which affects millions of people. In essence, he has received preferential treatment by law enforcement. If he was black and living in poverty, I can guarantee you that at the very least he would be in jail.

Imagine how this is affecting entire families who are fans of Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks. What do parents, both mothers and fathers, say to their daughters? Many kids look up to professional athletes. Gone are the days when sports was primarily observed by men. Today, entire families go to the games including women and their daughters. What message are we sending to over half of our population if we ignore, dismiss or excuse this type of behavior? No, we have to be honest with our kids. That doesn't mean revealing every salacious detail especially to younger children, but we have to come to terms with this both as individuals, fathers, brothers, sons and uncles.

Kane is not alone among professional athletes and entertainers in his behavior towards women. There have been a long line of athletes who have failed to respect women. But in this writer's opinion, we fail if the only thing we do is to shine a line on a dark subject in an attempt to promote a better understanding of this issue. It's so commonplace and pervasive that something has to be done to address the issue. More often than not, many women are either traumatized and/or do not have the necessary resources to fight back. If they do resist, in the majority of cases they receive settlements in exchange for not pursuing criminal indictments. 

What can we do to change this so more woman are not subjected to such inhumane treatment? Since this frequently happens throughout the world, we can organize campaigns in our local communities whose objectives are to generate considerable negative publicity for all the athletes involved and the organizations who support them. We can stop attending the games in person or watching them in person, boycott sponsors, not go to autograph signings and not purchase any merchandise. Will everyone support this type of campaign? Absolutely not. There are people who are misogynistic, and those for whom sports plays a defining role in their lives who will not walk away. However, I am fully confident that there are many women, and to a lesser extent men, who will not tolerate this type of behavior and support such a campaign.

Ultimately, though we need to take the profit out of playing sports. By doing so, it would remove the major conflict of interest which exists between treating people humanely and doing whatever it takes to win and make money. It's a question of priorities and women especially can no longer afford to have their needs play second fiddle.


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