I wrote a blog about Ched Evans a while ago, and I didn’t want to then. I’m now writing a follow-up, and I particularly don’t want to now.
Nonetheless; I’m a minority, lefty, feminazi, vitriolic, brainless, bra-burning, anti-democratic, clueless, useless, hopeless, slaggy, tree-hugging, hippy, loony, man-hating, fully-paid-up-member-of-mob-rule-party slut and… hey, this is what we do.
As I type – and the media narrative changes hourly – Oldham Athletic Football Club have decided not to sign Ched Evans after days of public wrangling. When announcing their decision, they decided to do so by deriding the abuse they had received during aforementioned days of wrangling over the decision of whether or not to hire a rapist with an unspent conviction, who remains on license, has been convicted in a court of law, has lost two subsequent criminal appeals and is currently being fast-tracked for a review into said conviction.
The alleged death and rape threats strike me as a stark and rather contradictory position to that of people who are opposed to wanting sex offenders to play professional football, which is a role that involves community work and is therefore pertinent to the conviction. There is indeed a cynical part of me that believes that those supportive of Ched Evans’ reinstatement into professional football would have more to gain from anonymous death and rape threats to footballing professionals, than those opposed to it. But in any case – wouldn’t it have been a glowing indictment of humanity if OAFC had represented many of their other fans by publically condemning rape and sexual violence within the same statement?
I think, whatever your position, one cannot help, but concede that a great number of those within sport have done a sterling job at demonising great swathes of the British public, and – in many ways – positioning both Evans and indeed football executives and controlling bodies as victims.
There is little to be said on the case that has not yet been said. But I think there are some conclusions to be drawn from the last four years that are profoundly important.
Since I’m depressed about the entire issue, I’ll start with the good shit.
There have been some incredibly brave football journalists and fans who have stuck their heads above the parapet and have openly, robustly, and articulately spoken out against misogyny and then defended their decision, in the face of overwhelming adversity.
Part of the reason Rape Culture – in football and in society as a whole – is so successful is because it operates insidiously and in tiny, almost unperceivable ways as well as in huge, heinous ways like rape.
So when a football journalist (especially when they are male, but in either case) openly criticises the behaviours of football executives, players, managers or fans this can have a tangible and profound effect on their career. They might not get invited to certain press conferences, they threaten relationships with contacts they have who may give them important information at clubs, and – in addition – they may face polarising their audience for whom it would be much easier to write transfer rumours and dressing room banter pieces. Or they could have taken a third route – as many journalists have – and written a non-committal, “two sides to every story” piece that reflects the story, but does so in a way as to not threaten their own position.
Therefore it really is a powerful, important and brave thing to do to take a stand that rejects the footballing establishment’s thus far callous and immoral handling of the whole affair.
Ok, that’s it. That’s all I can do for positivity.
There are a few things that are deeply worrying that I haven’t addressed in my previous blog that I’d like to highlight here.
The first is Gordon Taylor.
Gordon Taylor likened the Hillsborough Tragedy yesterday, to the Ched Evans case. That is, the smearing of an entire city by the media, a massive government cover-up of the gross negligence of the Police, resulting in 96 deaths; being measured against a man being sent to prison for raping a teenage girl.
Even if – and money makes the fucking world go around – Ched somehow manages to get his conviction overturned retrospectively (a long shot made shorter by the amount of money being thrown at it for big name lawyers, but nonetheless a long shot), the cases are so magnificently incomparable as to be a vile and disgusting desecration of those that lost their lives, and the very fact a person would have it within his capabilities to compare the two, speaks volumes about his desperation and morality. How dare this person speak of the uncivilised behaviour of those campaigning for a rape survivor in the very same statement!
Gordon has made no secret of the fact that he believes Ched Evans should play football again on license. He’s also made some very pertinent remarks about the possibility of Ched’s innocence, which lack impartiality and pragmatism, and shows utter disregard for the continuous suffering the survivor in this case has endured, which has been heavily documented.
And let’s make no bones about this; I don’t believe Gordon Taylor or indeed any of the managers who allegedly anonymously offered their support to the Oldham Athletic board to sign Evans have any special affection for him.
It’s not about Evans. It’s just about cash.
Football executives do not want to have to lose money as a consequence of the criminal behaviour of any of their footballers and the real crux of this is that they don’t want Evans’ case to set a new precedent in which – heaven forbid – football fans might have a right to hold the people whose wages they pay accountable for their behaviour.
It’s not lucrative.
Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football, their campaign screamed.
Until of course that meant preventing top flight defenders and strikers play football, which meant profit losses and unhappy sponsors and yanks and Russian businessmen and all sorts of complicated executive meetings involving numbers of middle-aged white men panicking about television rights and losing their summer houses in the fucking Algarve.
And then it becomes, “Everyone deserves a second chance” and, “How can we magic criminal abuse into a seven match ban, lads?”
And they do it. Because there’s too much money involved for them not to do it.
Which brings me to my second point.
It’s great, but –ethically speaking – the only acceptable course of action to withdraw sponsorship of a club considering hiring a rapist on license. Mecca and Zen deserve perhaps minimal respect for their decision to do so, given that their decision was almost certainly motivated by money at some level. Nonetheless, to use their economic strength in a way that denounces sexual violence is to be applauded.
Conversely, Mike Ashley owner of Sports Direct who declined to publically withdraw sponsorship and is rumoured to have privately supported Evans’ signing to the club, only further typifies the footballing establishment (Ashley owns and part owns other football clubs) and their institutional failure to adhere to supporting women and decent football fans, in favour of the dollar.
You can bet your life that the talks that took place at any of the football clubs that have been reported to have considered signing Evans at any point since his release have not involved great numbers of women, have not included representatives for organisations committed to ending sexual violence and have been more of a “How can we sign Evans without a furore?” as opposed to a “How can we help Ched understand what constitutes rape and make sure he doesn’t do it again?”
Which brings me on to my last point.
Ched Evans’ clearly forced statement which claims he objects to the victimisation of the person he is convicted of raping is at direct odds with the website his family and friends established that serves to further ridicule, pour scorn on, dehumanise and subjugate his survivor.
I had the misfortune to read some of it, which includes a letter from another rape survivor who discredits and humiliates the woman who has been proven in a court of law to have been raped. And other hideous chapters about Evans that position him more as a wrongly-imprisoned Mandela, than a thick, Welsh rapist.
It’s one of the most disgusting, indefensible and deplorable texts I have ever witnessed.
It shows such a blatant disregard for women, their sexual agency, their emotional value and such a stunted and medieval conception of what constitutes sexual violence, that reading it becomes not just an intensely saddening experience, but also a frightening one.
It does however, cast some light as to the sort of reasoning and lack of basic humanity that could have prompted Ched to commit his crime in the first place.
Every day we must think primarily of the suffering endured by Ched’s survivor and the many thousands of women who are raped.
And not just raped, but victimised for reporting it.
And then their supporters must face victimisation and bold, relentless, commercial, corporate, institutional condemnation in a variety of ways; on social media, at the pub, down the shops, in the office… because objecting to rape, objecting to disproportional favourable employment opportunities for men who rape, objecting to the team you pay money to go and watch play football twice a week consisting of a rapist and a board of people paying him makes you a slag, a hippy, a loony, a lefty, a feminazi, a do-gooder, a liberal, a slut, a man-hater and part of the mob.
PS Someone robbed and rehashed my first Ched Evans blog if you’d like to read it in a slightly shittier format. Don’t say I never give you owt: