Why I Chose to Get Involved
A Guest Blog by Peter Roby, Athletic Director, Northeastern University. Peter is the co-chair of Massachusetts White Ribbon Day 2015.
Why would a college athletic director be involved in the Massachusetts White Ribbon Day campaign? Does sport have any role to play in finding solutions to ending violence against women? Isn't the culture of sport responsible for all the negative behavior by athletes we read about in the media? These are all appropriate questions and deserve thoughtful responses. Let me give it a try.
I have taken the pledge to be a part of the solution to end violence against women and my occupation is helpful in raising awareness of others. As an athletic director, I view the athletic experience of our students as an extension of the learning done in the classroom. In fact, one of our core values is Coach-as-Educator. Our pursuit of competitive excellence must be balanced by our commitment to providing students a quality education. It is not only my personal desire to be part of any solution to end violence against women; I also view my role as Athletic Director as an incredible opportunity to promote and encourage values of kindness, respect, and empathy to our students and the broader community. My role as a citizen and member of this community is more than enough reason to care.
The popularity of sport at every level of society is undeniable. Around the world and in every city in America people come together to watch their favorite teams, root for their college, and bask in the glory of Super Bowls, World Series, or Stanley Cups. Many young boys idolize athletes and aspire to be like them.
Sport can be the great common denominator. Its influence can and should be used to raise the public's awareness about violence against women and help in the fight to eliminate it. If athletes were to be educated on what contributes to violence against women and pledge to be part of the solution, their actions would have a positive influence on the next generation of young men and help in changing how we reimagine manhood.
We must find a way to make it okay for a teammate to question another when things are said or done that contribute to an atmosphere of abuse toward women. The benefit of programs such as Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) a bystander intervention program is that it contextualizes the locker room culture, language and emotional abuse and helps athletes to appreciate the role an active bystander can play toward a teammate or friend in stopping violence against women. Programs like this have the potential to end the kind of locker room culture that contributes to behavior that objectifies women and promotes inappropriate language.
It is not just the athletic culture that contributes to violence against women; society plays a role as well. If fans are quick to forgive the transgressions of favorite athlete, they too are contributing to the problem by enabling the behavior to continue. By holding athletes accountable the fans have the power to change behavior. The NFL finally took strong action against Ray Rice for hitting his then fiancé and knocking her unconscious because public outcry was undeniable. Sponsors of the NFL also responded by threatening to withdraw billions of dollars of support if The NFL didn't take more immediate and decisive action. This example shows the power of the bystander and should inspire all of us to action.
Each one of us can take action by becoming an Ambassador of the White Ribbon Day Campaign and taking the Pledge to be part of the solution for ending violence against women. Let's reimagine manhood and together we can help create a safe and respectful community.