The #MeToo movement has given a voice to people who have faced sexual assault and sexual harassment. But the movement hasn’t affected the male-dominated world of professional sports very much. Other than Larry Nassar’s case, few sports-related sexual assault claims have received much publicity.
Let’s take a look at four high-profile incidents from the sports world that fall under the #MeToo umbrella. Each one is different, but they all show the need for high-level change in society.
Thirteen years before the #MeToo movement exploded, Kobe Bryant landed in legal trouble when a Colorado woman accused him of rape. The incident took place in Bryant’s hotel room. The woman informed police she had kissed Bryant, and then he’d raped her. The famous Los Angeles Laker claimed the sex was consensual.
At the time, the ramifications were huge. Other than legal implications for Bryant, it also caused a schism with the Lakers. While being questioned by police, Bryant accused teammate Shaquille O’Neal of infidelity. In the end, Bryant settled with his accuser out of court.
In 2018, Bryant was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the documentary Dear Basketball. While he’s answered questions about the case, Bryant has largely been praised by the public, escaping the incident largely unscathed. His case became another in a long line of sports-related sexual assault cases.
While in college, Florida State football player Jameis Winston was accused of sexual battery, though he was never charged. In 2016, an Uber driver accused him of sexually assaulting her in her car. While she did not press charges, the NFL suspended Winston from three games. He later issued a vague apology.
Following Winston’s suspension, his accuser released a statement: “I am glad to see the NFL discipline Jameis Winston. I do appreciate his apology even if it needs some work … Perhaps that night could have been prevented if others had been believed before me.”
A photographer from Minnesota accused Minnesota Twins’ slugger Miguel Sano of assaulting her at a shopping mall in 2015. According to the photographer, she ran into Sano at an autograph signing. Then, he attempted to kiss her and pull her into a bathroom. Sano denied the event ever happened. The MLB took no disciplinary action.
The photographer reported that not only had Sano physically assaulted her, but she’d also been sexually harassed by Twins’ first base coach Butch Davis while attending games.
While this incident wasn’t physical in nature, it shows the variety of situations that can possibly fall under the #MeToo umbrella. The #MeToo movement is about more than just physical assault; it includes incidents that create hostile working environments for women.
During a 2003 New York Jets game against the Patriots, ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber tried to interview Joe Namath. In no condition to be interviewed, the Jets quarterback slurred his words repeatedly, clearly under the influence of alcohol. Before Kolber could end the interview, Namath told her, “I just want to kiss you.”