Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Roberto Alomar and the Sexual Abuse of Athletes

Many of you have probably already seen the article covering the claim that Roberto Alomar had AIDS. I first learned about it from Deadspin's coverage. But a less salacious, more depressing detail was also tucked into the lawsuit. Roberto's ex-girlfriend said that Roberto had once been raped by two men when he was a minor playing ball in the Southwestern United States.

In addition, TheBigLead and WithLeather have linked to stories over the years where various coaches/teachers have sexually abused their players. Just today, Matt of WL ran a headline that yawned at how ubiquitous these stories have become. A high school coach seducing a student is nowhere near as scandalous as it once was--it's sadly become commonplace.

I really didn't want to write about this issue. But what spurred me to talk about this is an acquaintance who played sports at the college level who mentioned in passing that a coach was physically abusive to some of the players. It's amazing what schools will let coaches and other authority figures get away with. The problem is that athletes are so vulnerable to abuse in their pursuit of an athletic career. Take just 3 examples, which I tried to write as PG-ish as possible while still making my point. Who does an athlete turn to if they are taken advantage of in these situations?

Scenario 1: A teen hockey player is approached by a fan after a road game. "Kid, great job in that game! Come up and see me in room 325 tonight, I got beer for you and a couple of your friends. We'll celebrate! Did I mention my cousin helps scout for the Maple Leafs?".

Scenario 2: A college volleyball player is struggling to transition to the college game and doesn't seem to be ready to compete at the Division I level. She needs the scholarship, else she can't pay for school. Her coach has been threatening her with taking away her scholarship.

Scenario 3: A high school basketball player from Indiana accompanies his team to one of the highly regarded big time tournaments in Vegas. He's excited because he met a girl on-line from Vegas, and she's promised that they can meet in person. She told him where she lives, and says to sneak out after curfew and see her after tonight's game. Problem is, he can't find her name on Google, and now that he's at the house, it looks abandoned...

An abused athlete unfortunately has two additional problems in reporting what happened. If it's a guy, he faces embarrassment either way, whether it was a man or woman who abused him. Also, many times those athletes are abused by people who seem to have power over their athletic futures. What does a financially disadvantaged player hundreds of miles from home do without their scholarship? Worst, how can they prove what happened? Many sports are conducted in isolation, and practice takes place in a closed gym with no witnesses around.

Anyway, let me get to the root of why I wrote this. Maybe you're an athlete, and this happened to you. You found this post via Google Search late at night as you're struggling to understand what happened to you. I just want to encourage you that you don't have to be silent. You can always play sports somewhere else. You can always get new friends. You can always find people who do understand and who will counsel you and help you get through this. I am not a trained counselor, nor do I play one on the Internet. But there are certainly many qualified people out there who you can confide in. And I hope you will do so. Yes, you may have consented, but if it was with someone who had power over you or threatened you, the person is still at fault.

1 comment:

  1. Here is an exercise for folks who don't think this sort of thing is very serious. Get onto Lexus Nexus, start inserting keywords into the search like "teacher" "coach" or "student-athlete" and "sexual abuse" and see how many hits you get. I used coach and student and sexual abuse and got 1112 hits in state and federal cases. That is about 1112 too many.