Changing culture of male athletes’ locker rooms


Daniel Krugman, Sports editor

In my sports locker rooms, we talk about the Friday night basketball game or plans for the weekend. We blast music over the speakers while griping about a math test the next day. And, of course, we talk about our relationships and the females in our lives.
So when the Harvard University soccer team gets caught with a sexually explicit “scouting report” ranking their female counterparts and high school recruits on their looks and ability to perform sexual acts, it is clear that not every locker room is like mine.
Such disrespectful “locker room talk” and misogyny are clearly intolerable.
“It would be naïve to assume that the soccer team’s reports are an isolated instance of misogyny,” New Yorker Magazine columnist Phyllis Thompson wrote in her article responding to the case at Harvard.
The Princeton University swimming and diving team, Washington University in St. Louis soccer team, Amherst College cross country team and Columbia University wrestling teams were each suspended within one month of the Harvard scandal, according to reports.
Such scandals – while rare—have damaged athletes’ and athletic departments’ reputations. The number of such incidents may be low, but their impact on public opinion has been great.
That’s why we need to ensure that the culture I’ve seen in high school locker rooms permeates college locker rooms.
According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Assault Survey on the One Love Foundation’s website, a third of all women and a fourth of all men have experienced sexual assault, abuse or a violent relationship while almost half of both groups report it between the ages of 18 and 24.
With these statistics showing the peak of sexual disrespect and abuse at college age, the solution must begin in high school, starting freshman year when maturity and independence are first developing.
The One Love Foundation, which was introduced here two years ago, has become a vital resource for athletes and students at 896 high school and college campuses across the nation. After having success last spring with the “escalation workshop” on abuse for juniors and seniors, the club raised $900 for the foundation and is now beginning a campaigned focused on educating men, according to club sponsor and assistant principal Connie Dean.
Critics call for punishment as a key strategy for halting egregious sexist behavior such as that exhibited at Harvard. But, I fear that keeping teams from doing what they love to do could create more problems. Athletes come to these schools to play sports. Being banned could lead to restlessness or even retribution at universities.
Rather than castigate, let’s educate. Then, perhaps, we can make leaders of these misguided young men.