Stop favoring entitled athletes
Sexual assault cases punish athletes in sports world, not in real world
Content Warning: The content of this article includes a graphic retelling of a rape that occured in 2016.
If a male athlete is talented enough, athletics can lead to a life where he has almost no worries. If he makes it professionally, both him and his family are taken care of financially. Socially, all the parties are available if he wants to attend them and his allure as a talented athlete can be especially appealing to his peers. A sense of entitlement may develop along with all the attention that he receives while playing his sport.
This may have been the case for Tristen Wallace, a redshirt junior wide receiver for Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas.
After a senior season as a quarterback at Desoto High School in 2015 in Texas, during which he threw for over 2,000 yards, ran for 1,500 and had 28 total touchdowns, Wallace was all set to be a member of the football team at the University of Oregon.
For Blake McKay, attending the University of Oregon was not her first choice. But as she was offered a full tuition scholarship to attend the school and as a first generation college student, it was something she had to take advantage of.
On Sept. 11, 2016, McKay met Wallace after connecting on Instagram. He came over to her apartment that evening. That night, Wallace asked McKay if she was a virgin. She replied that she was, to which he said that he was going to “change that.”
The next night, they agreed to meet at Wallace’s apartment. As they were watching a movie, things heated up and the two began making out and removing their clothes.
“I looked over and he was putting on a condom,” McKay said in an email for The Falcon.
He asked her if she was ready to have sex, to which she said “No.” He then began to give her excuses as to why it would be okay, saying, “God wants this to happen, this is what he wants people to do” and “I won’t even pop your cherry, you’ll still be a virgin.”
McKay turned her back to him, attempting to avoid the conversation.
“He then put himself inside me, with his leg over my legs so I could not move or kick out of the situation,” McKay said. “I was screaming ‘no,’ telling him to stop because it hurt so bad, and that I wanted to wait. He kept penetrating me and I stopped yelling eventually because he wasn’t listening.”
Less than six months later, when the allegations became public, Wallace was expelled from the University of Oregon, but was not criminally charged. Wallace headed back to Texas, attending Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, where his play earned him a spot on the Prairie View A&M football team.
While some might think that Wallace going to a smaller school and getting out of the spotlight is a punishment for him, McKay feels differently.
Prairie View A&M is a historically black university and, according to McKay, “black women are assaulted at higher rates, and they are silenced the most.” She thinks that because he is going to a smaller university, his past is more likely to remain in the dark.
In cases like this, the athlete often gets what they want. The year before, in 2015, Stanford swim and dive team member Brock Turner was convicted of raping a fellow student outside a fraternity house. Prosecutors argued that Turner should spend at least six years in jail.
Strangely, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to only six months in jail with three years probation, along with requiring Turner to register as a sex offender.
The judge said he made this decision because “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.”
Nothing was said about the impact it would have on the woman he raped.
Wallace’s actions have had a large impact on McKay’s life. McKay is still enrolled at the University of Oregon, studying to become a lawyer representing survivors of sexual violence. She is also currently working to change the sexual misconduct policies at the UO by serving as the Executive Director of the campus’ Organization Against Sexual Assault.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted the student athlete handbook. The Falcon regrets the error.
Seattle Pacific’s Athletic Director, Jackson Stava, clarified the athletic department’s practices: “Every year we do specific sexual violence prevention meetings with each and every student athlete, our coaches and staff go through training on state, federal, institutional, and NCAA policies on sexual violence prevention, our department participated in NCAA and GNAC initiatives to promote prevention of sexual violence, and we provide numerous extra support services for anyone impacted by any form of sexual violence. Furthermore we work very closely with the university Title IX officers and Student Life department to ensure that if any athlete is involved in any investigation that they are treated no differently than any other student, and we completely remove our department from the investigation and discipline process to ensure things are done appropriately.”
Being an athlete is a privilege and the response of student athletes to this privilege should be gratefulness, not entitlement. If entitlement is the prevailing feeling among student athletes, then let it be an entitlement to being well liked and noticed in public, not entitlement to another person’s body.