In a murder-suicide Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher, shot and killed his 22-year-old girlfriend and then killed himself at the young age of 25. Their baby daughter, Zoey, is now motherless and fatherless.
In a recent New York Times piece, Frank Bruni pondered the effect of football culture on athletes and how it may have influenced the killings:
While it’s too soon to say whether Belcher himself was a victim of that culture, it’s worth noting that the known facts and emerging details of his story echo themes all too familiar in pro football over recent years: domestic violence, substance abuse, erratic behavior, gun possession, bullets fired, suicide.
Bruni considers this range of problems. I’ll look at how the culture harms relationships and buttresses hostility and violence against women.
When sociologist, Timothy Jon Curry, spent time hanging with athletes he found a “locker room culture” that demeaned women and celebrated violence against them.
Not all guys were the same. Some talked about women as real people and discussed their relationships, usually in quite tones with a best friend. But if someone overheard, they’d get slapped down. Because any “real man” knows that men should not be dependent on or vulnerable to women.
In a hushed conversation in one corner of the locker room a guy told his best friend, “I’ve got to talk to you about my girlfriend.”
But the others jibed him:
Yeah, tell us what she’s got.
Boy, you’re in trouble now.
You’ll have to leave our part of the room. This is where the men are.
More often guys talked boisterously – and often with hostility — about women as sex objects and conquests. All to enhance their hetero manly-men images.
Girlfriends were slammed. An assistant coach held up a picture of an obese woman that he called “Frank’s girlfriend.” Another sneered, “When she sits around the house, she really sits around the house.” Or, “She’s so ugly that her mother took her everywhere so she wouldn’t have to kiss her goodbye.”
Other times the guys seemed to celebrate rape:
Hey Pete, did you know Terry is a sexual dynamo? Well he said he was with two different girls in the same day and both girls were begging, and I emphasize begging, for him to stop.
Even moms were not immune:
She’s too young to be his mother!
Man, I’d hurt her if I got a hold of her.
I’d tear her up.
I’d break her hips.
Yeah, she was hot!
So here we have male bonding, men “being men,” men being different from women and in a way that controls and dominates them.
Curry says it all makes successful, loving, nurturing relationships difficult and supports violence against women. In fact, he says, there’s evidence that years of living in this sort of culture desensitizes guys to women’s rights and supports male supremacy.
And judging from one dead linebacker, his dead partner and orphaned daughter, that’s not good for anyone.