The benefit of the doubt is reserved for men

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | After being traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns this weekend, quarterback Deshaun Watson signed a historic $230-million contract.

by Zachary Petroff | staff columnist

March 24, 2022

This weekend, we saw a quarterback who is accused by 22 separate women of sexual assault rewarded with a $230 million contract. It is the most guaranteed amount of money in the history of the National Football League by $50 million. 

The Cleveland Browns – the team that picked up Deshaun Watson – was able to construct his contract in a way so that when he is undoubtedly suspended for a portion of the season, there will be little economic impact on him.

Watson is going to gross very close to $230 million. 

He will not be charged with a crime. A grand jury did not believe that there was enough evidence to charge Watson, but several civil suits are still pending.

The Watson trade is yet another clear example of male privilege in our society, and those who refuse to acknowledge that male privilege exists are willfully ignorant. The question is not the existence of male privilege, but to what extent it plays a role in the justice system.. 

The more privilege one has, the larger the scope of the benefit of the doubt. It is almost like a point system. For every non-controllable attribute that one has in common with the morals of white Protestant males, the realm of the benefit of doubt increases. There is a hypocrisy to this. Former NFL QB and known creep Ben Roethlisberger was my favorite player. I had a signed autograph picture proudly displayed – One of my favorite things to do was wear my Roethlisberger jersey in bars in Northeastern Ohio just to be that guy.  Every March 2, I would post on social media to remind people to wish Big Ben a happy birthday.

I also justified his actions. I read the police reports and was able to craft an argument in which I was able to adamantly support a man who by all accounts did horrible things to very young women and walked away with very few repercussions. I did this because he played a sport for a team that I liked.

As someone who was a winner in the economic/genetic lottery, there are times when it feels that my privilege knows no boundaries. This is not what some would classify as white male guilt but rather an acknowledgement of how things are right now.

It is gross, I was gross. The level of hypocrisy that comes with supporting a QB who sexually assaulted a woman while claiming to be a forward, progressive thinker is laughable. I have sisters and nieces who I claim to adore, but how is that possible when I was actively promoting a man whose existence in popular culture is a slap to the face of every woman who has faced sexual trauma in their life?

It is so hard to prove sexual assault in trial. It is an emotionally taxing experience that makes it almost impossible to prove. Imagine having one of the worst things ever to happen to you, then you have to try to prove it.

The benefit of doubt will always go with the man. Again, thinking otherwise is woefully ignorant.

How important is our entertainment to us?

I understand the significance that sports play in our lives. The lore that is sports is remarkable and impactful. Sports can transcend a community, bring platforms, shape public discourse and inspire us to be a version of ourselves that we want to be. There is a clear romanticism in sports.

Yet as these young athletes become more celebrated and accessible to the masses through social media, at what level do we hold actions accountable to those that commit atrocities?

How can we spend a news cycle condemning Aaron Rodgers for being annoying about vaccines, yet decline to properly hold a man accountable, who had at least 22 separate women come forward.

The way the sports media talks about this should be making us all a little sick to our stomach.

We had a ton of politicians base a portion of their campaigns around a guy who kneeled during an anthem, yet remain silent about a man who is being rewarded for allegedly sexually assaulting 22 women.

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That is the beauty of our justice system.

It would just be nice if we could extend the benefit of the doubt to the victims. 

I find it very telling that there was more of a public outrage against a college swimmer than a man who committed sexual assault. Maybe if Lia Thomas would have committed sexual assualt we could look past the horror of a trans woman participating in college athletics.