There are parts of the world where sports stars can get away crimes as serious as rape because they’re seen as above the law. There may be only a few examples but enough to make anyone wary of eulogising athletes just because they’re fit and healthy.
Unfortunately in Ireland over the last few weeks there’s been a tendency to do the exact opposite. I posted a few weeks ago about an ambush interview on a (male, sorry) MMA fighter, and this weekend women’s rugby got turned over.
Once again a journalist was invited into a world she knows nothing about, given a tour of how something functions and spat all over it. As with the other interview I don’t feel as angry as some online commentators but I do feel saddened. Again.
The article included the classic reassurance that female rugby-players wear make-up and like boys. A string of juvenile jokes about where your hand goes in the scrum got the article going downhill, and it just kept on going.
There were some positive moments. I really like the coaches’ comments about the different ways men and women learn. I know some people were mortally offended by that, but I’ve often heard boxing coaches make similar observations.
He said: ‘Women are far easier to train. More inquisitive, curious and faster learners, whereas the guys take on ingrained habits.’
Railway Union RFC, the club which hosted the journalist, had this to say on their Facebook – after they’d posted a photo of the page:
“Our first posting was done by one individual this morning. Whilst they may have had some concerns about the overall tone of the article, they tried to put a positive spin on it when first posting.
There were some positives in there in that rugby is for all body shapes and sizes, she references how much fun it actually was, it mentions how women are easier coach and learn quicker, and it tells a positive story about women’s rugby being embraced and valued by the whole club.
We tried to dismiss the less flattering pieces as being ‘risqué and stereotypes’ and went to focus on the positives.
Obviously this was an error and it became apparent that our players and members – both male and female – were quite offended by the article. Our Committee reviewed the article and decided to provide a Club statement on the background to it and our disappointment of the missed opportunity for a positive article.
No conspiracy, no agenda, just a amateur club with hardworking volunteers trying to do their best to provide and promote rugby for all.”
I’m not posting a link to the piece here. I see the paper has since had another female journalist write a riposte to the first piece. Total click-bait. But I couldn’t let it pass – sports stars should be held to account for mistakes, for crimes and for being general idiots when it arises.
But picking on them to get a rise out of listeners or readers? It’s just not cricket.