College athletes and domestic violence, revisited

Bravo to ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil for this well-reported piece on the complicated backdrop of college athletes and domestic violence and how some universities are trying to address the problem.

In particular, she was careful to point out that the case of George Huguely, a University of Virginia lacrosse player charged this spring with the murder of a member of the women’s lacrosse team, reflects a campus culture that goes far beyond the game and the cloistered world of sports:

“After Huguely, the blame was placed at the foot of lacrosse. The sport, sullied before by the Duke scandal, was attacked again, with critics arguing that the typically moneyed and privileged lacrosse player would be more apt to condone Huguely’s behavior.

“And in the ensuing mayhem, of lacrosse fans screaming in defense of their sport and detractors insisting it was nothing more than a bastion of testosterone-fueled trouble, the real problem was lost.

“It wasn’t about lacrosse.

“It’s about a college climate, where young men and women still experimenting with adulthood try to survive the land mines in front of them. Emotions, too often fueled by alcohol, bubble and burst without Mom and Dad to help bring them back to a calm simmer. People struggle with doing the right thing versus testing the limits of their coveted friendships.”

Suggesting even the possibility of such human complexity a decade or so ago was a virtually taboo notion in the mainstream media, which was taken instead by the toxic pronouncements of Mariah Burton Nelson — channeling the even more egregious Catherine MacKinnon — that the “male sports culture” is inherently misogynistic.

Yet there is more recent media hysteria over the above-mentioned Duke lacrosse scandal as well as the Virginia tragedy that I called out as the typical journalistic rush to judgment.

It’s still tempting to search for easy labels to explain this behavior when there really are none. Crime is about the actions of individuals as individuals — and not as members of a group.

The time to stop condemning all male athletes for the actions of a few is long overdue, and O’Neil provides a rare, ideology-free perspective with a healthy understanding of what’s at stake.

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