2013-01-17 19:14:39

Notre Dame football cares way more about an imaginary dead girl than a real one

Lizzy SeebergGranted, this is truly a weird and almost addictively fascinating story. But let’s not forget that while the media buzzes and the university responds, the Notre Dame football program has pretty much ignored an actual dead girl. Irin Carmon writes:

Less than a day into the Manti Te’o revelations, we’ve heard more about a fake dead girlfriend of a Notre Dame football player than a real dead girl. Lizzy Seeberg committed suicide, not long after being intimidated by Notre Dame football players for reporting a sexual assault by one of their teammates. A second woman who was taken to the hospital for a rape exam declined to formally accuse another Notre Dame football player after getting a series of bullying texts from players.

The handful of people who immediately took note of the contrast in the attention — both by the press and by the university — are absolutely right to be angry. But no one should be surprised.

We don’t know everything about the Te’o saga yet, but there is probably only one fake dead girlfriend mythologized by the sports media, the existence of “Catfish”-ing as a verb notwithstanding. Whereas there are legions of stories of sexual violence against women and men by star athletes and staff, who can reliably count on the impunity offered by fandom. Confronting the former is a little embarrassing: The public equivalent of loving too much, the allure of a heartwarming story everyone wanted to believe. Confronting the latter requires uglier, more difficult self-examination, and accepting collective responsibility costs more.

…It’s easier to just change the subject and not think about whether there is something endemic to football culture that enables sexual entitlement with the reasonable assumption of getting away with it.

The contrasts are truly stark. The athletic director literally cried for Te’o in a 40-minute press conference, while the coach cracked a joke in response to questions about Seeberg. The program hired an outside private firm to look into the Te’o hoax, while it allegedly shields its athletes from police investigations. As Dave Zirin writes, “The problem at Notre Dame is not just football players without a compass; it’s the adults without a conscience.”

Photo of Lizzy Seeberg [Via]


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