Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Innocent Until Proven Guilty (Sometimes)

Professional athlete A goes to an upscale resort in a quaint ski town. Over the course of his time there he is sure to draw the attention of a few people, including more than one interested lady. The lady joins him in his room and a few days later there is an accusation of sexual assault. Now Professional athlete B also goes to a quaint ski town, and he also meets a few interested ladies, and like athlete A, he too is joined in his room and is subsequently accused of sexual assault. If you said that they would receive the same amount of attention, you would be wrong. Athlete A is Kobe Bryant, and Athlete B is Ben Rothliesberger.

For weeks we saw nothing but the trial, the press conferences, carefully worded statements from Bryant and his legal team assuring the public and the American legal system that the only thing he was guilty of was adultery. Yet no matter what arena he stepped into he was greeted with chants of ‘rapist’ as if the idea of innocent until proven guilty were just words. When the details of the case were revealed and Kobe was eventually exonerated the damage had been done. He had been painted as a sexual deviant and nothing was going to change that despite the fact the promiscuous girl who claimed this got away with character assassination.

Not to be outdone Big Ben decided step into the world of “he said, she said.” What do the news outlets that were so quick to jump on Kobe do? Nothing. Maybe they really were awaiting more details before reporting. Perhaps a lesson had been learned from the public witch burning that was the Kobe Bryant trial. I mean there were reasons to be skeptical. The victim did not press charges instead she went straight for a civil suit seeking a minimum of $490,000 plus punitive damages. These don’t appear to be the actions of one who had been violated. I decided to give them a pass.

Now comes word that for the second time in less than a year Big Ben Rapelesberger has struck again. Now what strikes me as odd is that no one appears to be talking about this. I don’t want to be the on to do this but I can’t help but notice that Ben is a white athlete whereas Kobe is a black athlete and maybe this has something to do with the perceived guilt and innocence and the ensuing news coverage. Constantly on ESPN and other sports outlets we see black athletes such as Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, and others constantly vilified as though they were public enemy number one and white athletes call passionate or have a childlike love for the game. Am I suggesting that there is a massive conspiracy against black athletes? No. But it does make one wonder why this is.

I don’t know the answer to this extremely complicated situation, but it would be nice not to have to go through another separate but equal conversation in this time. Because the coverage of the two races of athletes has been separate, but it damn sure isn’t equal, this I do know.

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