Sports and society: Cancel this culture
Two professional sports coaches, both unworthy of dignity, resigned or were sacked last month over various misconduct. It looks like we are in the middle of a review of unacceptable coaching behavior. Except that we are not.
The dismissals of former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden in the NFL and North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) it feels like the start of a movement to end the tolerance of coaches abusing their positions to the detriment of players and related parties.
But I don’t see it as a sudden movement or moment of solidarity. On the contrary, this wave of redundancies represents more of the reality that teams and governing bodies continue to tolerate coaches who verbally and physically injure players and sully the sanctity of leadership of America’s greatest teams, unless the attention of the top US teams. media does threaten the results of their organizations.
Take Riley, who was fired by Courage and his coaching license revoked by US Soccer following an explosive report from The Athletic last month that he sexually and verbally abused players for years. Yet even when the NWSL was made aware of the findings of the Portland Thorns internal investigation against Riley in 2015 and subsequent complaints against him, the league did nothing to prevent Riley from continuing his coaching career with Courage a year later .
The Athletic report, however, threatened to cause a tidal wave of ill will on the part of league fans and corporate sponsors, and it prompted matches to be called off, the commissioner and general council. of the NWSL to resign.
Gruden, by far the most publicized of moves, was marred by controversy last week after more than 650,000 emails, detailing a history of misogyny, racism and homophobia, were reviewed by The New York Times. Only one racist comment surfaced earlier, but Gruden was still on the sidelines against the Chicago Bears the following Sunday. It wasn’t until the Times reported that Gruden resigned.
The league was likely aware of Gruden’s conduct throughout the investigation, but it is unclear when and to what extent, as the NFL did not bother to request a detailed report of the investigation findings.
The failure of team organizations and leagues to reprimand coaches who repeatedly show their depravity in character and morality is testament to their own apathetic view of this endemic problem and its greater tolerance in American sports culture. After all, Ed Orgeron, former coach of Louisiana State University’s football team, one of the top programs in the country, resigned not primarily because of allegations that have surfaced for more than a year there was personal misconduct in not properly reporting a rape allegation against a player, but because of requests for his removal from fans sick of a losing record.
This toxic culture permeates sport, and it is likely that only a fraction of the abuse of power reaches the public. Yet public and media pressure appears to be the only tool to open the eyes of owners and blind leagues. Until they scold men like Gruden and Riley before their misdeeds are made public, this culture will continue to thrive. And no movement against the abuse of power by coaches can have a real effect while it exists.