Thursday, January 5, 2012

Distinguishing the individual and the athlete: cheerleading, sexual assault and drink-driving

A recent news story highlights the case of a 16 year old cheerleader who refused to chant the name of a player who had previously sexually assaulted her, and was subsequently expelled from the squad for doing so. After attempting to bring a compensatory claim against her school which failed, she was ordered to pay $45,000 in costs.

The court ruled:

"As a cheerleader, HS served as a mouthpiece through which [the school district] could disseminate speech – namely, support for its athletic teams. This act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, HS was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily."

I'm not sure of the credibility of this story as I have no background knowledge on it but one of the most interesting aspects is the distinction between the role and responsibilities of being an athlete (if one can call cheerleading a sport) and the rights one has as a free individual.

On a similar note, Danny Care has been dropped from the England rugby team for being found guilty of drink-driving after a New Year's party. This again highlights the ambiguous distinction between a private and public life and the rights and responsibilities that come with each. Care was not on duty with the England team at the time and the matter was rightly dealt with by the police and law courts. However, the act was seen to be justification for his dismissal from national selection.

These stories provide us with a couple of interesting philosophical questions:

To what extent is one a free individual in sport?
What bearing should decisions made in one's private life have on one's public sporting life?


Anonymous said...

Cool question! Perhaps only pastime sports, like skateboarding and snowboarding, provide autonomy for the player. By contrast, popular sports are NEVER respectful of the individual, as Jacques' Law suggests.
On Jacques' Law, see

Alun Hardman said...

Another aspect of this issue is the degree to which it is precisely because of the athlete's sporting profile that the problematic behaviour emerges.

In other words, by putting athletes on a pedestal, and all the paraphernalia that is associated with that, athletes themselves have a skewed sense of perspective.

It suggest that what might be understood as difference between private/public life for some (athletes) is very different for most (non-athletes)