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Published on Sunday, November 14, 2021

Violence sells, sex abuse doesn’t

Sunday November 14, 2021


I don’t get it. How, and why, in the world of professional sports, is a ten-year-old sexual encounter considered a more serious offence than constant physical violence? 

            My ruminations are, of course, founded on the lawsuit launched by former Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach that former video-coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted him and another player during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

            As a result, at least three executives have lost or quit their jobs.

            But no executive has ever lost his job because his players gave superstar Sidney Crosby a concussion – four concussions, officially, probably more never diagnosed. 

            No one was ever fired for sending a tough guy like Ti Domi onto the ice expressly to beat up opposing players. 

            No one has ever been charged for the brain damage found in autopsies of deceased football players – 99% in the NFL, 91% in college teams, 88% in the CFL. 

            But heads roll over a locker room incident?


A puzzlement

            Never having been a victim of sexual assault myself, I don’t understand why getting groped in a locker room leaves lifetime trauma. But bashing an opponent into the boards, or slashing him with a hockey stick, doesn’t. 

            I don’t want to whitewash Aldrich’s offence. After leaving the Blackhawks, he moved into college and high-school hockey, where he eventually pled guilty to charges of sexual assault, and spent nine months in jail. 

            According to news reports, Aldrich and Beach agreed on the specifics of the offence: masturbation and oral sex.

            But pictures portray Beach as massive and muscular. By comparison, Aldrich looks more like the 97-pound weakling in old Charles Atlas ads. How did he coerce Beach? Especially if a second player was also being assaulted? 

            In my younger days, I played team sports where 20 or more healthy, muscular, and lusty men showered together. Machismo was as thick as tofu (which, of course, no real man would ever admit eating). The humour was raunchy; the homophobia rampant. 

            I suspect it still is. John Gruden, coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, resigned after his emails using racist, anti-LGBTQ, and misogynistic language (along with topless photos of another team’s cheerleaders) were leaked. Otherwise, he would still be setting social standards for his team. 

            Several athletes in individual sports have come out as gay or lesbian. As far as I know, only one man in professional team sports has dared identify himself as gay. 


Exploitation exists

            Two former coaches of the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s soccer team have been accused of seeking sexual favours. More than 150 women, including a number of Olympians, accused gymnastics coach Larry Nasser of sexual exploitation; he got sentenced to 175 years in prison. Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. 

            I could go on, citing cases. But why bother? 

            The fact that some cases have been prosecuted does not imply that sexual misconduct has been banished from sports. It proves only that abuse exists.

            Three things stand out, in my mind. 

            First, without exception, the authorities tried to hush it up. It was more important for their teams to win than to right a wrong. 

            Second, the perpetrators have overwhelmingly been male. 

            That doesn’t prove anything about men in general. Women may be just as likely to exploit power, if they have it. But if they have, it hasn’t been as widely reported. 

            And third, there is always some kind of power imbalance. It’s the only explanation I can see for Kyle Beach submitting to Brad Aldrich. Even as a lower level coach, Aldrich could spread misinformation that might harm Beach’s career. 


Power abuse

            “Follow the money” is a common aphorism. Maybe it applies. Physical violence, on the field or the rink, makes money. Sexual misconduct doesn’t. Therefore it must be kept hush-hush.

            I suggest that “Follow the power” is more relevant.

            Power doesn’t necessarily involve money. Generals have power over lesser ranks, regardless of income. Teachers have power over students. Celebrities have power over fans.

            And coaches have power over players.

            Another former NHL player, Sheldon Kennedy, has crusaded for years against the sexual exploitation of young people by hockey coaches. There can hardly be a greater imbalance of power. The coach is an adult., trusted by the players’ parents with their children’s welfare. 

            A kid’s dreams of getting into the NHL depend largely on the coach. Players don’t dare defy their coach. 

            And if they do get to the big leagues, they get more of the same. 

            As Kyle Beach discovered. 


Copyright © 2021 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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Your turn


An abundance of thoughtful letters about last week’s column on the Glasgow climate conference.


John McLeod: “Thank you for having the courage to state what really is the problem that will destroy the world -- human overpopulation. It is so frustrating to view the stories of climate change and listen to world leaders who are blatantly ignoring the real problem.”


Mirza Yawar Baig: “In today's [political] world, anything more than 12 months is in the realm of fantasy. 

            “In my view we are headed for a global disaster and the earth will adjust itself in a way that will be catastrophic for the human race but will renew the balance of the earth. Hopefully both of us will be in a happier place by then. Human beings have no history of making unpleasant changes to prevent catastrophes and there is no reason to suspect that anything has changed in the world.”


James West: “I confess that much of my view of life and theology was/is formed by stand-up comedians. George Carlin(1937--2008) once remarked that the earth on its own could not produce plastic, but that once humans created all the plastic that the earth needed, the earth would then get rid of the humans; they had served their purpose.”


Gary Lund: “A few decades ago, researchers and futurists were sounding the alarm about the dangers of global overpopulation. Somewhere along the way, it became verboten. Now no one dares acknowledge this despite its reality and the risk to the future that it represents. The focus is on reducing per-capita consumption, but if you cut per-capita consumption in half but have twice the population, then you haven't reduced overall consumption at all. 

            “Meanwhile, there's the notion that you have to have population growth and ever-growing numbers of younger working people so that as we age we'll have enough health care workers and taxpayers to fund our pensions. That looks to me like a pyramid scheme that will eventually collapse along with the ecology of the planet.”


Chris Blackburn: “Despite my interest in renewable energy projects, I hadn't thought about the relation of population growth to climate change. I haven't read Dan Brown's ‘Inferno’, but I remember reading somewhere that China's temporary ‘one-child’ policy, with all its problems, resulted in 600 million fewer people in the world.”


Frank Martens: “I commend you on your column on the real problem of population over-growth on our planet. To open that topic for discussion takes more courage than most of our leaders have. 

            “Your column today reminds me of a very old Star Trek, in which Captain Kirk visited a planet of humanoids who solved the problem of overpopulation by having a set number of individuals called upon by their gov’t to sacrifice themselves by entering an elevator shaft into oblivion. As usual Kirk and Spock entered the fray by convincing the people that they should resist the call. What that gov’t had found to be a solution to overpopulation now turned into chaos as the fight for survival on that planet turned into anarchy. Kirk didn’t hang around to see the result.”

            [JT: Several other writers also referred to Star Trek episodes.]


Bob Rollwagen: “Earth has been here for millions of years. It will be here for at least another million. It appears life on this planet has been evolving for only tens of thousands of years. Many species have come and gone. What 2050 will look like is already decided and some scientists have provided their opinions. 

            “[Meanwhile] the number of displaced people is growing everywhere every day. Most have little in the way of person assets to lose, and do not cause climate change events. It is the few wealthy and privileged who do not realize that they are the problem. They feel entitled and deserve their position. The destabilizing trends that are increasing every day will lead in time to the new reality. although probably not in your or my lifetime.”


Nenke Jongkind: “While there may not be an exemplary country, I understand that the State of Hawaii has exceeded all its targets and is keenly using renewable clean resources.”


Steve Roney: “The problem is the tragedy of the commons. Because the atmosphere is a shared resource over which no one has ownership, there is incentive for each country to grab what they can of the resource before the other guy does. It takes great altruism -- or naivite -- to reduce one’s economy for the sake of the group, knowing as soon as you do, the next country will just take advantage. As a result, none of these summits is likely to accomplish anything.”


Jennifer McLeod: “In the early sixties in the U.K. there was a movement of Zero Population Growth among young people. Very few of the people I knew back then have had more than two children. Our resources will be turned into pollution to accommodate the over-population. Every religion should be advising their followers to use birth control.”


Judy Lochhead: “Thanks for writing this article. It is troubling and deflating to those of us who think that somehow we are doing our part by washing our tin cans and putting them at the curb for pick up. 

            “We are conditioned to believe those who we elect, or professionals we hire, are acting in our best interest. 

            “With respect to the growing population’s need to feed them without killing ourselves and the air, water, and growing land trying to achieve this, I offer a contrarian view. Consider that perhaps Covid-19 was nature’s way of ‘culling’ the weakest of the species. Our compassion for humanity and our ethics are challenged when we consider that in protecting the vulnerable, we are prolonging the lives of those living with severe disease, or institutionalized with dementia, with very limited quality of life, so they can die of another cause. While nobody wishes to be the judge of who should live and who should not, practically, as populations increase and there isn’t capacity to feed all of us, what has to give?

            “I recognize that my comments reflect a healthy, first world person of privilege, and will not be popular with a lot of people. I don’t suggest I have any answers to what we should do, but after reading your article and others, I feel like I have been given a terminal prognosis for a disease. I have been offered some experimental treatment that has a very limited chance of prolonging my life as I know it. And the option of just living it up and enjoying what time I have left. Some days, the second option feels like the thing to do.”






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               I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these links are spam.)

               Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

               I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

               Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



               The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.


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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: sex, NHL, violence

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