In August, Jaborian McKenzie and three other Vanderbilt University football players pled not guilty to the rape of a 21-year-old female student. The details were ugly with allegations that their coach may have known about the rape and even encouraged the players to destroy evidence.
Today, ThinkProgress reports that Jaborian is now playing football for Alcorn State University in Mississippi.
Rape culture is a chameleon that comes in many colors. It is institutionalized in the justice system as seen here, It’s profitable in the music industry and in movies. It also exists in the education system and some prestigious colleges have a pretty lackadaisical policy about sexual assaults that trivialize and mitigate the experience of and longitudinal impact on the victim while failing to properly hold perpetraitors accountable. It’s also a mockery of what justice really means, “the principle of moral rightness, ” when the rapist(s) bear no responsibility for their actions. The oppression, control, harm and sexual and emotional violence incited by one individual onto another independent agent should not be dismissed- but that is what keeps happening.
So here we have Jaborian playing football for another school, pursuing his dream, his professional trajectory ostensibly unaffected by his actions. This says a lot about Alcorn State, but says even more about the larger problem: how football culture and rape culture play on the same field. You can’t broach this topic without discussing Steubenville or Penn State and although the cases differ in detail, they fall under the wider umbrella that is the intersection of football culture and rape culture, and the idea that tossing a ball around a field or being the coach of the people who toss a ball around a field makes you immune to justice. Alcorn State, by allowing Jaborian to play there, is as good as forgiving him for the atrocities he committed. When football takes precedence over “moral rightness,” it creates the sense that no wider net of justice has been served.
We can’t change football culture until we make rape culture unprofitable and say that it’s a universal ‘red line.’ Why? Because it’s just. not. okay.