• Cheek

Another footy player, another assault allegation

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

This article contains commentary around sexual assault and may not be suitable for some readers.

I’ve taken to looking at Twitter a few times a day (mostly to see what Trump is up to), and I’ll usually click through the trending topics in Australia. Today’s included Jack de Belin, an NRL player who went to court today after being accused of an alleged rape. The headlines on the stories covering de Belin’s comments make my skin crawl and a lump form in my throat. This ABC article reported the following:

Mr de Belin told the court he saw the complainant on the dancefloor and she came up and gave him a "cuddle".

"When she gave you a cuddle did you say anything?" Mr Campbell asked.

"I think I said, 'Aren't you a little cutie?'" Mr de Belin replied.

Mr Campbell asked the defendant if he made any observations about how the complainant was dancing.

"She was very attention seeking and her dancing was dramatic and over the top," Mr de Belin said.

Photo from ABC

And just yesterday, it was reported another footy player, Jackson Wiliams, avoided jail after assaulting a nurse on a Melbourne street. The assault was caught on camera. Beyond the usual questions I have upon reading yet another of these disgusting stories, something else popped into my mind: how many footy players have to (allegedly) assault women before something changes?

Aussies are completely obsessed with footballers, particularly the male ones (which might have something to do with the fact that women’s footy only started to become popular a few years ago. Or maybe it’s just because we live in a patriarchal society. Who knows!). It’s actually kind of funny how much we make fun of Americans for being obsessed with their politicians when we are hooked on the every move of these so-called stars.

The fact that the sport breeds a toxic culture, at this point, isn’t up for debate. Football players are becoming synonymous with bad behaviour and court cases for alleged assault. But apparently we can seperate the two, and games still get bigger headlines than the crimes they commit. Jack de Belin was in court today and all I’ve heard all day is people talking about the sick Queenslander comeback on the Origin last night.

The culture and idolisation of footy players is rife. In a time when we claim that cancel culture is so rampant that you can’t even use a hashtag without risking your career, why have these players, and football culture as a whole, continued to live on?

I have a theory. And I’ll tell you what it is. Footy is a ‘men’s interest’. And before you lose your mind, I know that all footy fans aren’t men and that all men aren’t footy fans. I get it. But speaking more broadly, the stereotypical demographic is men. Straight men, at that. Sports, particularly football, is categorised as a male interest. I think you see where I’m going with this.

Men’s interests are protected. They are meaningful. They are embedded in culture. They aren’t taken too seriously, but also the grand final should be a national holiday because it is the most important day. There is nothing more sacred than watching footy with the boys. The people and things that are cancellable are often ‘women’s interests’.

Makeup and fashion brand scandals, celeb drama, influencers doing bad things. They’re all seen to be frivolous topics for the frivolous women who are interested in them. Even the male celebs who have been ‘cancelled’ (most of them come back) for alleged assault or ‘creepy behaviour’ are quick to be accepted back into society by men.

Lena Dunham and Jennifer Lawrence (whose name I just forgot and had to Google even though she was previously an A list celeb) never made it back to the mainstream after their cancellation. Not only are they women, but they also played characters in movies and shows enjoyed by women. The Hunger Games series reports a 80% female audience, and Girls 65%. Both gone with barely a trace. But football players accused of assault often make it back onto the field.

We are happy to separate these toxic men from their sport, but we maintain that influencer culture is just ‘full of drama’ and, by its very nature, is toxic but at the same time is ‘silly’. An influencer getting lip injections and face fillers seems to be more scandalous than a full-blown assault.