According to Bankrate, the average cost of an NFL ticket is a whopping $457. Drinks and snacks could easily land you another $100. And there’s really no limit to what you can spend on merch.
The payout of these financial and emotional investments may come in waves of euphoria after the home team wins. Your devotion, and your money, may yield fond memories of game-day tailgates and parties. Football may be linked to certain holidays for some, with traditions steeped in all the reverence of an ancient religion.
But what is the cost when one continues to hold regard for a player—or a team—embroiled in ugliness and controversy? What happens when there is a sharp juxtaposition between the love of the game and the distaste for an individual’s actions?
While not being the first to do so, many Cleveland Browns fans have mastered the art of self-delusion when it comes to their new quarterback, Deshaun Watson. They have willingly allowed themselves to be gaslighted into ignorance for the sake of the game.
Well, there was no conviction, so we can’t really know what happened.
I don’t praise the player—I praise the team!
Everyone deserves a second chance.
At first glance, comments similar to these may seem diplomatic, or possibly even wholesome.
But just under the surface lies a much darker truth: erasure of harm fosters a world where those evils will multiply.
The willful ignorance of Browns fans disregarding Deshaun Watson’s actions is seeding a cultural shift where one man is granted the benefit of the doubt over dozens of women.
This is dangerous for many reasons.
Sue L. Robinson, a former U.S. District Judge who serves as the Disciplinary Officer for the NFL, had already highlighted the NFL’s finding that Watson “used his status as an NFL player as a pretext to engage in a premeditated pattern of predatory behavior toward multiple women,” and found that the league had proven “Mr. Watson engaged in sexual as assault (as defined by the NFL).”
So I ask, after her findings, and the cooperation of Watson’s victims with NFL investigators and Houston Police detectives, how is his career now restored after his minuscule punishment?
Watson has maintained his stance that he is innocent throughout this saga. So how can he find redemption when he has not asked for forgiveness? The answer is simple: he cannot, nor does he deserve another chance.
He should not have been allowed to continue his career, but the precedent has been set that talent trumps abuse.
When I was asked to attend Watson’s return to the field on December 4th, I felt enraged. The ongoing humiliation, despair, and anger of knowing I have lost my career because of him are my constant companions.
I haven’t just lost my livelihood; I also suffer from crippling social anxiety. If one stranger assaulted me, how can I trust anyone? I cannot.
How could I stomach seeing my assaulter return to his life of glory — the same life that shrouded him in immunity for his actions?
I awake each day asking myself what I want from this life, and I try to tell myself that I hold value as a person. I seek hope, and reasons to survive. Many days, I fall short of these basic comforts.
How can my life hold meaning when masses of people continue to support the return of a talented monster? To say I have lost faith in humanity would be an understatement.
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At what point do we stop separating the player from the sport?
It must be at the point where it harms others. If not, we willfully shift cultural expectations that dangerous men may live without consequences, and their victims must simply suffer and disappear.