Sports Controversy Series: Deshaun Watson and the NFL

Julia Elbert 

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     There has been a rise in the past five years of women coming forward regarding male athletes and assault, but the men are still getting away with it. 

      The Me Too movement has helped women become more comfortable speaking out, because they have allies and an evolving justice system that is on their side. But many male athletes are allowed to get away with this gruesome behavior because of their status, and still get paid like nothing happened. Why is this? 

     With the specific controversy around NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson, several women have come forward saying that they have been sexually assaulted or harassed by him. So far there have been 22 women who have come forward to sue Watson because of the behavior that occurred while they were working with the Texans.  

     The women were massage therapists or physical therapists, but they were not actually licensed in the state of Texas. Therefore, the Texans could be held responsible because they knew about the lacking credentials and still hired them.  

     The controversy that surrounds this case in particular is the fact that the NFL tried to sweep the entire situation under the rug.  

     The NFL emailed back and forth between lawyers and other important people about how they could make sure that no one knew about the lawsuits. Bottom line: They wanted to silence the 22 women who were coming forward.  

     According to ESPN, there was a $100,000 offer made to the women to drop the lawsuits, but the women chose not to take the money. The lawsuits that have been occurring have been a direct result of what happens when people ignore the red flags of toxic masculinity in sports culture. While these cases have been going on for years, the men standing accused have faced little to no repercussions. 

     This has resulted in a dangerous sports world not only for the players but also for the young men and women who are fans of the sports. ESPN is a large platform that reaches all kinds of people, young and old, men and women. Creating this constant controversy and then not accepting the repercussions is what causes the toxic environment that we see today.  

     When men think that they are all-powerful and have the right to be overbearing to people who are “beneath them” just because they play a sport, that is where the toxicity begins. 

     There is a way to bring it to an end. The mental health of the men who are in these environments needs to be taken seriously. If there are opportunities to communicate their feelings and their thoughts without the pressure of being less manly, then they will not feel the need to express their manhood through violence and aggression.  

     In terms of women in sports, when something goes wrong or the opposite direction, the media might immediately blame them for their emotions or say that they do not clearly think through their thoughts before acting. This is interesting because when a man literally assaults multiple women, the media questions the women coming forward and not the man accused.  

     The “Sports Controversies Series” is a new series and will continue exploring issues like mental health and the objectification of women through the lens of sports. 

Photo courtesy of The Clemson Insider.