Along with Chelsea, who have been applauded this year for their campaign to support the Refuge charity, Rashford’s voice has stood out because he has made a largely isolated figure in men’s sport.
Readers might wonder why such a story should have a place on the sports pages. But male perpetrators of violence and harassment do not exist in a vacuum, they are embedded in our culture – including sport.
Former Real Madrid player Robinho has been signed by three Premier League teams since his conviction in 2017 for sexual assault and gang rape – for which he has escaped jail time due to the law on extradition. The NFL sparked outrage in 2014, when a video captured Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice dragging his partner off an elevator after punching her unconscious. Rice initially received only a two-game suspension – a lower penalty than the one imposed for ball tampering.
Beyond legal convictions, sports culture has demonstrated a disturbing attitude towards violence against women in which beating a woman is apparently a laughing matter. Last year, when domestic violence cases exploded amid the lockdown, British boxer Billy Joe Saunders posted a video in which he supposedly joked advising men how to beat their wives or girlfriends. He was fined £ 15,000 by the BBBofC after apologizing, but served a simple four-month ban.
While earlier this month, an image of Jurgen Klopp (which was used without his knowledge or consent) was circulated widely alongside the faces of actual survivors of domestic violence, with the caption: “Beaten at home during locking. “
There has long been evidence showing a ‘significant increase’ in domestic violence complaints at major international football tournaments where England is involved – including the 2018 World Cup, when 239 domestic violence calls were made to the UK. police the next day or the day after the encounters in England.
Which is why seeing Simpson take his place with City without the club committing or acknowledging their troubling history pokes fun at Women’s Aid’s efforts to reverse those links between football and male violence. This undermines the club’s support for the charity and suggests that a footballer’s ability to kick a ball is more important than any values City claim to have around respecting women’s safety. It is, quite simply, sports washing at its best.
The club and Simpson declined to comment, but Sport Telegraph understands that City had been in close discussions with Women’s Aid prior to last week’s announcement. However, it came in the days that followed that the city’s former under-23 player Alhaji Sesay was sentenced to 10 years in prison for rape and attempted rape after separate attacks on two women – another important moment that the club did not recognize.
“We hope the club want to send a clear message about respect, consent and healthy relationships for players,” the Women’s Aid statement said on the matter, adding: “One of the main ways we can [reduce violence against women] is not to ignore or minimize violence against women where it occurs. “
For those who say it is unfair to delay Simpson’s sentencing to six years after serving his sentence, that would ignore the enormous influence football and sport can have on an issue that affects women. from all walks of life. How powerful would it be if more men in sport, as a collective, took over to support the other half of the population this time around?
Women’s Aid was right to call out City’s empty support – sport as a whole must recognize its responsibility to stand up and be included in the conversation about women’s safety and male violence.