And so it rumbles on.
Back in October, Ched Evans was released from prison on licence and rumours abounded that Sheffield United, his former employers, were contemplating the possibility of offering him a contract.
Everyone had an opinion, including me. I wrote here that it should be up to the fans to decide and ultimately it was. I didn’t receive any online abuse but many did, including (but in no way limited to) campaigner Jean Hatchet and Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill, who had the temerity to state that she would request the removal of her name from a stand at Bramall Lane if Evans was re-employed because she believed in the importance of athletes as role models.
For this, she was threatened with… yep, you guessed it. Rape.
Football, forgive them. For they know not what they do.
Anyone who has experience of rape, whether directly or via a relative or friend, would not be bandying the word around so cheaply. To them it’s just a word. Like banter for sexism, racism and homophobia. It’s annoying, it’s offensive but essentially irrelevant.
As time has passed, other people, seemingly boasting more brain cells than euphemisms for penis, have put together cogent, thoughtful arguments as to why Evans should be allowed to continue his football career.
Their reasoning tends towards the legal rather than the emotional - namely that Evans has been punished for the offence and should therefore be free (under licence, of course) to continue with his life and career.
In the early debates, the examples cited were clumsy and unwieldy. If Ched Evans was a binman he would be free to go back to work etc etc, but over time these have gradually evolved into something a little more sophisticated. Comparisons have been drawn between Evans’ case and those involving Luke McCormick and Lee Hughes, both of whom were able to resume their playing careers after being convicted of crimes that resulted in the deaths of others.
In McCormick’s case, two young children.
At face value, it seems reasonable. Same job, similar circumstances, similar conclusion. If they killed people and played again, the argument goes, why can’t Evans, who was responsible for the death of no one?
But don’t be fooled. Although not Neanderthal in their construction, these arguments are still as invalid as those of their hashtag warrior predecessors and in fact, articulate precisely why the Ched Evans case, every case, in fact, should be treated on its own merit.
Albert Camus. Probably busy.
Does anyone reading this seriously think that we can solve an existential question of this magnitude using Twitter and an Etch-A-Sketch? Great philosophers have devoted their entire lives to considering such matters and never reached a satisfactory conclusion, so why would we even think to drag that into the debate?
It’s entirely unnecessary. The problem is silently, efficiently resolving itself, in the manner that these things tend to do while we’re all fannying about with our wild notions.
In the world of football, our world of football, money and publicity are controlling factors. We might not like it, but we support the game and are therefore complicit.
Thus, if Jessica Ennis-Hill, a high profile, high achieving, inspirational woman, states that she does not want people applauding Ched Evans from a stand with her name emblazoned upon it, that is her right to do so. If high profile companies want to pull out of sponsorships because clubs are considering employing Evans, that is their right too. If an individual wants to set up a petition to protest about his employment, she is free to do so.
The press report it, and we bitch about it. Endlessly. Our ability to speak freely is what propels us into these futile forays down cul-de-sacs, each step taking us further and further away from our intended destination.
We stride confidently into the Twitter wilderness, desperate to become the person to solve ‘Ched Evans’ and claim the tarnished glory therein, rolling about in the sordid details while complaining about the moral turpitude of men and their uncontrollable sex drives, women who get pissed in short skirts and ask for it, while Ched Evans proclaims his innocence and remains unrepentant as he maintains his website and wears the hangdog expression of the man wronged.
The noise is deafening.
Imagine how it feels to the one person who has to listen to this cacophony but can’t have their say. The individual whose crime was to go out and get drunk, to be drawn into a game she doesn’t recognise, by pros versed in the rules of engagement. To know that her decision making, clothing, mood, stance and actions on that night are being constantly scrutinised and criticised by people who have absolutely no idea what happened and treat it as an abstract. Entertainment, if you like.
You’re free to argue that Evans has had enough grief over this. It’s your right.
Count yourself lucky. She has none.
By Kelly Welles
Money ball image via caughtoffside.
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