I was heading out for a feed last Sunday night and found myself reaching for my New York Knicks hoodie in the wardrobe when I froze. There was no way I was going to be seen wearing that logo.
In his thoughtful reflection on life as a Knicks fan in 2016, a year in which the team traded for Derrick Rose after he was charged with sexual assault, Jason Concepcion asks “How do I root for a person when, in the context of the real world, I believe that person acted abominably? Maybe just asking the question is enough. It doesn’t feel like it, though.”
I asked the question for a split-second before knowing the answer. I can’t look at the Knicks the same way.
I won’t repeat all of the pertinent information about the case here – the documents are available online – but here’s the tl;dr version: Rose and two of his friends are accused of gang-raping his ex-girlfriend while she was unconscious at around 3am in August 2013. An ex-girlfriend who had consistently declined to have group sex. An ex-girlfriend who’s refusal to participate in such activities played a role in their break-up. Rose and his fellow defendants are contesting the case on a few grounds, including debating how drunk she was on the night and whether she consented to sex with the three men, although Rose has stated that he doesn’t know what consent means. Here’s Concepcion again: “To agree with Rose’s version of events, then, is to believe that Jane Doe, though she had never before agreed — again, per Rose’s testimony — to participate in group sex, decided to have consensual sex with Rose and two other men in August 2013, and is now lying about it. Maybe that’s what happened. Maybe Rose placing his used condom back in its wrapper and taking it away with him, as he stated he did in his deposition, is no big deal. I don’t find Rose’s version of events believable.”
I too find Rose’s version of events to be incredibly unlikely. But I’m not here to crucify Rose himself. Instead, I’m here to examine my inability to support a team – an “organisation” as the Americans so often call them – that chooses to employ a player who is quite likely to have committed such a crime.
For there is a whole organisation at fault here. There’s an owner, a president and a general manager. There’s a head coach.
The President, NBA Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, said last week that “There’s a lot of stuff in our newspapers that [raises] concerns about a variety of things. One thing I’d like to address about Derrick Rose and the process he’s going through — we anticipate it will not affect his season, hopefully, training camp or games. We’re going to let the due process of the justice system work its way through the next week and a half. We want to put this to rest. There doesn’t need to be a lot of talk about this.”
But there does need to be a lot of talk about it, Mr Jackson.
Let’s remind ourselves of the stunning article by sexual assault victim Stacey May Fowles regarding baseballer Josh Lueke. Every time the pitcher would take the mound, some people would remind the world – usually via twitter – that Lueke is a rapist. Fowles argues that “the onslaught of tweets calling Josh Lueke a rapist is…for the thousands of rape survivors who watch games and know that what they love is sullied by baseball’s willingness to turn a blind eye to the kind of suffering they themselves endured. It’s a gesture on the part of fans who know it’s unlikely Lueke will ever see his career end as a result of those actions, but refuse to tolerate his inclusion, who believe that, while a team may opportunistically decide to field a talented player who has committed an act of sexual violence, it shouldn’t be immune from the disgust of the public.
“Apologies to those for whom these Josh Lueke tweets interfere with their enjoyment of a game, but the threat of sexual assault interferes with how a vast majority of women enjoy life. The collective vitriol over his ongoing employment by the Rays has everything to do with the fact that he is a high-profile example of the way rape works in everyday life. The act—the trauma—often leaves a life-long mark on the victim, influencing her ability to navigate the world safely and comfortably. In a very large percentage of cases, the perpetrator sees little or no consequence, and the victim’s suffering is exacerbated by his freedom and success.”
In my mind, the balance of probabilities leads me to believe that in all likelihood, Derrick Rose and two of his mates gang-raped a woman. The most-quoted moment from his testimony would be hilarious if it weren’t so incomprehensibly horrendous:
Question: So they just said, “Hey, it’s the middle of the night. Let’s go over to Plaintiff’s house,” and they never gave you a reason why they wanted to go over there?
Rose: No, but we men. You can assume.
He’s right. We can assume. And until there’s any clear proof that consent was given on that night, there’s no way I’m associating myself with the Knicks. Not until Rose and anyone who was involved in approving his trade to the team is long gone from New York.
Until then, I doubt I’ll be watching often enough to remind people that Derrick Rose is a rapist every time he scores. For he’s wearing a uniform that I’ve loved from childhood right up to a month or so ago.
It was a simpler time then, you know.