#MeToo should include athletes

first_imgJulia Poe | Daily TrojanSunday night marked one of many times in which the world of sports spills over into pop culture, politics and art. Kobe Bryant took center stage at the 90th Annual Academy Awards, scooping up his first Oscar win for the animated short Dear Basketball.As the king of Los Angeles basketball accepted an award in his home city, he was met with triumphant applause and a standing ovation. But the scene wasn’t as celebratory as it appeared. Instead, it was a testament to the work still left to do for the women’s empowerment movements that have been championed by Hollywood over the past year.Time and time again, celebrity movements have proven their hypocrisy through a variety of actions that are all bark and no bite. The #MeToo movement has been powerful when it trickled down to the general masses of American society, and it certainly has unseated its fair share of Hollywood stars as well. Yet last night forced an uncomfortable question back into the faces of movie and sports fans alike — does #MeToo really mean anything in the grand scheme of things?The scene last night was pretty bleak. Actors and actresses wore Time’s Up pins on their dresses and suits as a symbol of solidarity with the movement aimed at preventing and punishing sexual assault and abuse in Hollywood. Presenters and winners alike gave speeches about empowerment and protection, highlighted by Frances McDormand’s moving speech following her Best Actress in a Leading Role win. And then the Academy handed trophies to two men with pasts containing accusations of violence toward women.It’s hypocritical at worst, inconsistent at best. The lack of spotlight on Bryant’s history has been concerning for years, with conversation resurfacing occasionally but always dissipating quickly in the shadow of his accomplishments. Bryant was charged with sexual assault in 2003, and only avoided a trial when his then-19-year-old accuser decided to drop criminal charges and not testify. She later pursued a civil suit, and they settled out of court. Part of the settlement required that he read a statement expressing that he understood now that the victim “feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”This seems like a textbook example of situation in which the celebrities championing the #MeToo movement should openly and proudly denounce Bryant. The accusations against him are well-recorded and serious. In fact, they sound similar to the stories that have surfaced about Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein and many other Hollywood stars who were ousted over the past few months. It was a situation in which a man seemed to use his celebrity and clout to overpower and overwhelm a young, vulnerable woman. It was wrong, and Bryant deserved the same vitriol for that incident as any of the other men who felt the wrath of #MeToo this year.I’ve seen a variety of arguments in the past day attempting to defend both Bryant and the Academy. One of the most popular is that Bryant only stood judgement from one allegation with no court decision to back it up, so he shouldn’t be punished for an alleged assault that might not have happened. I could buy into this, perhaps, if I hadn’t seen Kevin Spacey pulled out of House of Cards and the Oscar-nominated All The Money In The World over allegations before any legal steps were taken.This has been one of my main issues with the #MeToo movement for some time now. The same people who loudly denounced the actions of Weinstein and others this year also stood and applauded for Woody Allen or Roman Polanski when they won awards in the past. And the same celebrities who made speeches and quips about women’s empowerment literally moments before showed no remorse in cheering on Bryant’s achievement.This issue ultimately reflects a greater dilemma facing the sports world as a whole. We let violent college athletes keep their scholarships, then hand them Heismans and Player of the Year trophies. We suspend violent professional athletes for a week or two for beating their wives, then toss them back on the field when our teams need a win. Never mind the progress that’s being slowly made in other parts of our culture — when it comes to sports, time isn’t up for anyone at all.As a fan, it’s hard to identify who to blame in this situation. Is it the institutions — the NFL, NCAA, MLB and NBA? Is it the coaches, or the players themselves? Or is it actually just us, the fans, the ones who turn on the TV and hand over the power to the players whom we love and admire and practically worship? I believe it’s a mix of everyone involved, a general attitude that has existed for decades, that manifests as complacent ignorance in order to maintain our love for game and sport as a whole. This ignorance has dulled the edges of every institution, coach, player and fan who refrains from speaking out or holding a violent man accountable out of fear of losing the glimmer of escapism that sports provide.What is amazing is to see how this complacency spreads, even into communities who claim that the time for cover-ups and turning a blind eye is now long over. Hollywood has done its best to attempt to prove that its days of harboring violent men are long over (although Gary Oldman, who took home the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role despite his ex-wife’s claims that he choked and beat her in 2001, might have something to say about that). At the end of the day, the reaction to Bryant’s win illustrated just how far we have to go in matters of sexual assault and violence. How great of a giant are we willing to topple in order to prove that enough is enough? After all, Kobe Bryant is basketball in so many ways. The Oscars illustrated that although the media industry is beginning to take strides, that progress still isn’t strong enough to move an industry mountain like Bryant.Sunday proved the same point once again — Hollywood might say that time is up, but it’s not up for everyone. And as long as we continue to protect and applaud men accused of violence, this violence will continue. It’s time for that to change.Julia Poe is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “Poe’s Perspective,” runs Tuesdays.last_img