Thursday, May 13, 2010
Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor leaves the Ramapo Police Department where he was arraigned on charges of third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute at a nearby hotel in Suffern, N.Y., Thursday, May 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Why Lawrence Taylor Won't Catch A Pass Like Roethlisberger
Let me start by saying this: I don't know if Lawrence Taylor raped anyone, and neither do you. I do not have the ability to presume guilt or innocence just yet, because I have not seen the evidence. But you know what? That probably doesn't matter anymore, since Taylor's face has been splashed on our TV screens in so many disgusting ways, his career is as good as dead.
It doesn't matter what the outcome of the trial happens to be, Lawrence Taylor has once again lost the public trust he's spent the past 12 years trying to rebuild. The same respect afforded Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers is not given to Taylor, and we should be ashamed for pre-judging Taylor's guilt without knowing all the facts surrounding the case. We've all decided that pimps and prostitutes can't lie or extort money, and that Taylor is surely guilty.
For some reason, people think that by speaking out on Taylor's right to fair and balanced judgment, I might somehow be standing up for a rapist. That by saying that none of us were in that hotel room and that we might want to wait for the evidence, I am engaging in the irrational task of defending the indefensible and presuming his innocence. Sorry, my friends, that's just not true.
All I ask is for our nation, for one second, to wonder if we would have or did do the same thing to Ben Roethlisberger. Did we talk about Roethlisberger as if he were a rapist the minute the accusations surfaced, or did we wait for more facts? Did Roethlisberger lose his job immediately, the same way Lawrence Taylor lost his endorsement deal with Nutri-systems right after having his mugshot shown on television? Was he immediately charged with rape the way Taylor was? Did CNN spend hour after hour analyzing what a terrible person Roethlisberger is and how he is detrimental to society, the way Showbiz Tonight, Nancy Grace and Jane Valez Mitchell did to Lawrence Taylor? I thought not.
America is a nation that has always appreciated the African-American male athlete as a source of entertainment, but at the same time we portray them as less human, less disciplined and less conscientious than virtually everyone else. Although there are countless examples of white male athletes who get drunk at frat parties, get accused of date rape, have sex with minors and engage in other types of irresponsible behavior, our poster child for the misbehaving athlete almost always ends up being African-American male. You only have to spend a little time on a college campus to know that athletes of every ethnic group get involved in ridiculous behavior: stupidity doesn't discriminate. But what we see in front of the camera is not nearly as important as where the camera is and is not pointed. White men are no more or less ethical than black men; our media simply loves to highlight one group's flaws over another.
Without fail, every single year, our nation chooses some black male athlete as its public enemy number one - the guy the media loves to show walking into the courtroom or in a mug shot at the police station; the target of obsessive, repetitive and darn near Pavlovian judgments about his character and level of personal responsibility.
Before Lawrence Taylor, there was Gilbert Arenas, Plaxico Burress, Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Ron Artest, Terrell Owens, Latrell Sprewell, Randy Moss, the list goes on and on. Do we realize how ridiculous and predictable this routine has become? Can you name one white male athlete in the last 10 years who has been subject to the same scrutiny? Is it because white men don't commit crime? Perhaps it is time we consider all misbehaving athletes on equal footing, because if your goal is to convince me that only black male athletes act like buffoons in private, you may be hitting the same bong as Michael Phelps.
At the end of the day, the bottom line is this. I am not defending a rapist. I am defending the civil rights of a man who has been accused of rape and also making the fundamental request that we evaluate all the facts before ruining this man's life. Ben Roethlisberger did not get the same treatment as Taylor, for many of us remember how damaging a false rape allegation can be. If Lawrence Taylor is guilty, then let justice be served. But if you aren't going to serve Ben Roethlisberger at the same judicial lunch counter as Lawrence Taylor, then you're simply reincarnating Jim Crow.
Posted by tha artivist at 9:30 PM