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?