Monday, 10 August 2009

The Last Straw

I do not very often read something in the paper and get totally peeved about it.

Tonight I am peeved.

Melbourne Storm, Queensland and Australian Rugby League player Greg Inglis has been charged with assault.

Not assault of another professional athlete who also spends hours and hours a week building and maintaining physical power and strength.

Not assault of an athlete from an endurance sport.

Not assault of another male his age.

He is charged with recklessly causing injury and unlawful assault. And who is this alleged assault against? His girlfriend. She reportedly has a black eye (refer Herald Sun).

He is simply the last in a long line of high profile footballers from all codes to be charged with some form of assault of a women. Should we be thankful that in this case there is no allegation of a glass being involved?

I am the first to stick up for equality of the sexes and the rights of women in all walks of life - business, sport, home.

However, no women, no matter what they do to agitate a male should have an unwanted finger laid on them. Never.

Violence against women is a scourge of our society. Violence towards people in general is a scourge of our society.

All and any violence by a male towards a women is cowardly in the extreme. However a highly trained professional footballer who spends an inordinate amount of time building above average physical strength raising a finger in violence towards any female must be the ultimate act of cowardice by one adult towards another.

Professional sports people are role models in society.

I understand the argument that says they are just a cross section of the community who just happen to be good at their sport and they do not sign on to be role models.


It goes with the territory. Sports people get paid the huge money they do because of people like you and me who buy the products of their sponsors, contribute to the value of television rights by watching them on TV and stump up the cash to see them play live. We pay them and have a right to deserve more. We need to demand more.

If they sign the contract for the big dollars, they also sign up to be pillars of the community. Whether they like it or not, when they sign on for the cash, they sign on to be role models and sign over some of their rights as private citizens.

I also hear the argument that the professional athletes of today are no better or worse than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago, it is just that there is more scrutiny of their behaviour.

This may well be true. But it is absolutely true that the increased media coverage that is the scrutiny is also the vehicle that provides the riches they earn. You sign up for the big dollars and in doing so accept the scrutiny. If you don't want the scrutiny, say no to the cash

I have been involved in sport including coaching teenage boys at the elite level in their age group. To say the behaviour of elite, high profile athletes does not effect the behaviours of young people and the development of their values is absolute rubbish because it absolutely does.

Young people DO imitate high profile athletes in all they do - on and off the field.

So what can we do about it?

We can make a protest and demand better behaviour from our sports people. We can react in the way that ultimately effects them the most. We can do this by turning off the television when the football codes come on, by not attending the games and by not supporting the products they promote or the sponsors of them and their clubs.

And the sponsors can either demand action or withdraw their support too. Surely the multi billion dollar superannuation fund HostPlus who sponsor the Melbourne Storm must consider their ongoing involvement if Inglis is found guilty. I happen to know the HostPlus CEO and his values in no way correspond with those portrayed by some of our elite footballers.

I also know the argument that the vast majority of professional footballers are upstanding highly ethical people. And they are. However the likes of Black, Mortlock and Falou also need to take a stance and make it very clear they refuse to be associated as teammates or opponents with these cowards. They need to refuse to play with them at any level of the sports that also pay them so well.

We are not helpless, we can act and by doing so we can make a difference.

And the author is starting now. I will not be watching or listening to any AFL, Rugby Union or Rugby League commercial broadcasts for at least the rest of the season. I will not be attending any more AFL games this year or the Union test in Brisbane in September. And I certainly will not be attending any Rugby League games. I will also be avoiding any product associated with these sports at the professional level.

And if you think it is a waste of time taking individual action, just look at the impact consumer action has had on the Australian Idol TV program and Today FM breakfast program following the behaviour and actions of Kyle Sandilands.

You and I can make a difference. It simply depends on whether you think violence towards women is less important than watching some athletes ply there trade.

In our society today, it is NOT more important. Manners, respect and common decency towards each other is far more important.

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