I am a female. I am a Football fan.
Instead of writing that as one, fluid sentence; “I am a female football fan”, it seems more appropriate to break up the two ideas.
Those two things don’t seem to be able to be synonymous any longer.
I grew up in a suburb of Kansas City and have been a Chiefs fan since I knew how to walk. KC is a city rich with football culture and immense loyalty, and no matter how many times the Boys in Red have broken my heart, it has never occurred to me, not even once, to abandon my loyalties. Not only do I love the Chiefs, but I love the game.
Football has always been a type of poetic to me. The thought that these men have spent their entire lives honing their craft for battle on Sunday’s gives me the chills. The game of chess that is the sport, fascinates me. The preparation and discipline it takes to put on the show that these men give us every week is immeasurable.
You want to see a 300 pound, viking of a grown man cry? Look at the sidelines of the losing team the next time you watch a big game. Not only the players, but the staff. Look at the coaches, the trainers, and the water boys with devastation on their faces as the clock winds down. This sport means everything to these men and it shows.
The whole ordeal is one of tradition.
I will never forget the first time I entered Arrowhead Stadium. Amongst all of the noise, chaos and strong aromas, there was a tangible sense of nervous anticipation amongst the crowd. I imagined what I was experiencing was the closest thing that people of our time period on this Earth would get to the Roman’s when they entered the Colosseum to watch an epic battle. I sat in my seat next to my father, (some sort of strange right of passage), with amazement as the B-2 bombers flew over the stadium, raining vibration down into the packed stands surrounding the biggest American Flag that my little eyes had ever seen. I was sold. I had never seen so many people in one place, with one common goal. I have spent every fall season since planning my life’s schedule in such a way that I wouldn’t miss one Chiefs down.
Until this week.
Everything that I just said above still rings true. I still love the game. I still shutter with amazement when I contemplate how many hours these men have spent over the course of their lives on a field, or in a weight room, or watching film, preparing for the small chance that they may get the opportunity to live out their ultimate dream.
However, I no longer know how to be a female, one who supports women and their safety above all else, while simultaneously re-arranging my life to support an entity, an organization, and a team, who on more than one occasion has prioritized a mans 40-yard dash time, above his character or his history of physical, emotional, or sexual violence against women.
I am a female. I am a football fan. I am a supporter of women.
I am also a believer in our justice system. I feel like we abide by “innocent until proven guilty” for a reason, and I have been concerned about the outrage culture and gas-lighting society that has surrounded me in recent years. I believe that a man has a right to a fair trial, and that there are usually three sides to every story. Yours, Theirs, and the Truth.
HOWEVER, the NFL has shown time and time again that they are incapable of changing the culture in those locker rooms, despite their vain attempts to change policy and set firm standards for their players.
I have heard the argument that these men should not be held to a higher standard than those of the general public, and to that argument, I strongly disagree. With great privilege, comes great responsibility. These men wanted this roll and that means taking everything with it. The fame, but also the duty. They are role-models whether they knowingly signed up for that portion of their contract or not. NFL Players are viewed as action heroes who epitomize strength, pride, and toughness.
If they deserve that or not is another conversation all together.
Little boys all over the country are watching on Sunday’s just like you and I do, and they are being taught with every incident, that if you run fast enough or throw far enough, your actions off of the field will be forgiven, or worse, “contained”, “condoned”, or “swept under the rug”.
I think what we aren’t considering, are those little boys that aren’t going to make it to the league. What about the college athletes that still haven’t accepted their fate that college will be the end of their football road? They have grown up watching the likes of Greg Hardy, Dez Bryant, Ray Rice, Ben Roethlisberger, Rueben Foster, Adrian Peterson, (the list goes on), and every time that these men get to put on their uniforms and collect their large paychecks after assaulting a woman, these young men learn that if they are a good enough athlete, they will be above the law and above general moral standards.
But what if they aren’t? What then?
As they grow up and begin to beat and assault women, we will look at them like menaces of society, as shit-bags with no moral compass. Why do we hold the general public to harsher criticism than those who have the ultimate platform? Because they score more touchdowns and sell more tickets? The idea is baffling to me.
It has been hard to be a female and a Chiefs fan this year.
First, we had the Kareem Hunt situation.
Say what you will about his final action or the “kick” that got him released. My take on the whole ordeal was that he should have known better, and he should have done better. A young man with such talent and such promise, with the world at his feet, and any resource that he could have wanted, should have been more careful about the company he kept. Again, with great privilege comes great responsibility. The Chiefs did what they had to do amongst the PR nightmare they were facing, but within the blink of an eye, Hunt was picked up by the Cleveland Browns, while still on the Commissioners exempt list. Again, prioritizing his football talent over his lack of morality. Did he have to suffer for his actions at all? He was concerned for his future in the league for what, two months? Why would Hunt feel as though he needed to make drastic changes to his lifestyle if he still is awarded the privilege of suiting up on Sundays, albeit in a shit brown color. (Fitting, if you ask me.)
And now we, as Chiefs fans, are trying to digest the Tyreek Hill situation. Not only is this a situation of domestic abuse, but also one of child abuse which I believe we can all agree is disgusting and horrifying.
I remember when the Chiefs drafted Hill, probably a second-round talent at the time, in the fifth round. We got a lightning-fast, wide receiver at a discounted rate, because he was damaged Goods. Everyone from top to bottom was aware of Hill’s past and his history with domestic violence. The decision was met with warranted scrutiny. I remember thinking, how can we take a player with a history like this just four years after Jovan Belcher horrifyingly shot his girlfriend 10 times, killing her, and ultimately took his own life on the organizations property?
I wanted Hill to be a changed man. I wanted him to be different, I wanted him to make different decisions. Truthfully, because I am a human with a built-in forgetter, as time went on, and he scored more blink-and-you’ll-miss-it touchdowns, it was easier to look beyond his sordid past. However, it was still there, looming, and now with the investigation into his home-life, his 3 year-olds broken arm, and the very telling audio surfacing, he no longer gets the benefit of the doubt in my mind. He is repeat offender of preying on those weaker than him, and I firmly believe that any man who has the capacity to lay their hands on a child in a violent manner has lost their privilege to suit up on Sunday’s.
As a Chiefs’ fan, I hoped this would be enough. I hoped that the Hunt family, with a past reputation of moral decency, Brett Veach, Andy Reid, and the like, would say ENOUGH, and do everything in their power to distance themselves from any player showing any propensity towards abuse of women or children.
But no, in the same week that we are all reeling from the Hill incident, the Chiefs traded a first and second round pick in this years heavily loaded defensive draft, to award them the ability to sign Frank Clark, another player with domestic violence in his past to a 105.5 MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT, because guess what? We need a better Defensive End, and instead of taking a gamble on a rookie, we value proven athletic talent over proven moral character.
Do women and children have a place in the fan base of the Chiefs organization? I now believe this is a fair question.
I am tired. I am tired of trying to defend women and my team, my “tribe” of sorts, in the same breath. I can not do it with dignity any longer.
I am a woman who has experienced sexual violence by the hands of a man, and every single time I defend the Chiefs roster decisions, I can’t help but feel as though I am turning my back on the traumatized, and victimized part of my being. I have been unable to drown out the voice inside of my head that tells me supporting the NFL and the Chiefs organization as strongly as I have, does a dis-service to past and future victims just like me.
So what do I do with that?
I honestly do not know.