Hockey and Rape Culture at the University of Ottawa

You’ve got a high bar to clear if you want to defend the University of Ottawa’s suspended hockey program. For those who missed the news, uOttawa has announced that they are shutting down the hockey program for the 2014-2015 season. They had already suspended the program for much of this year after an allegation of sexual was made against three of the players back in February.

There have been no arrests and, obviously, no convictions, yet, but the university has completed their investigation, determined there was a there there, and have decided the best thing to do is to shelve the team and fire the coach. It should also be noted, the players haven’t been suspended.

So, with an allegation of rape, a cover-up by the coach (who knew about the incident within hours but never reported it) and an internal investigation completed, the school has made a wise decision. It is difficult to argue that the school is in the wrong.

But, of course, someone will! And that someone is Lawrence Greenspon, a prominent lawyer. Greenspon is representing seven of the players, claiming they have been treated unjustly and unfairly maligned.

“They would go to parties or other social gatherings and people would come up to them and call them rapists,” Greenspon said.”They have suffered amazing consequences to this point.”

Ignore the fact that reports–as well as the statement made by University President Allan Rocke–note that only three players have been linked to the (alleged) sexual assault and that this isn’t an indictment of each individual player. Focus, instead, on the target of this complaint.

The players who are (I will assume) being unfairly maligned aren’t blaming their (alleged) rapist teammates. They’re blaming the university. Now, it wasn’t the university that sexually assaulted the woman. It wasn’t Allan Rocke who covered it up. And it wasn’t school administrators who created this toxic culture in the program. It was the players and the coach (and maybe coaches).

Blame the people who committed the (alleged) crime. Blame the coach for the cover up. Blame everyone involved with the team for fostering this atmosphere of entitlement, but don’t blame the school. It’s a rather tasteless defense.

Now, we might be able to blame the university, to a degree. What we might be seeing is a lack of institutional control (a vague term that is often employed in the U.S. to punish thoroughly, but non-specifically, corrupt athletics programs). It is quite possible the university didn’t provide proper oversight or didn’t respond to warning signs.  But if you’re going to blame the university for that (fair enough), then you must applaud them for this decision. The school has (perhaps finally) exercised a bit of control over a program that covered up sexual assault. Give them a bouquet of flowers, not a lawsuit.

The university does not have to maintain a hockey team. These students are not owed a team. Claims that their “careers have been ended” are so ridiculously overblown. If they have the potential for a career, this certainly won’t derail that (and, lest anyone be confused, amateur hockey is not a career for these players).

But, the players–no doubt hurt, and likely feeling betrayed by their school, coach and team–will continue to flail as they fight the suspension:

Greenspon said his clients had been expecting the university to apologize and reinstate the program on Wednesday. He pointed out the university does not have a code of conduct, which opens it up to a lawsuit.

So, apparently, their argument is you didn’t tell us not to rape. Good luck with that.

2 thoughts on “Hockey and Rape Culture at the University of Ottawa

  1. You are severely under-stating the propensity of Lawrence Greenspon to “vigorously defend” the seemingly indefensible. One look at the case of the Pembroke dentist will give you a new appreciation of his ability to defend someone in every way possible.

    In a way, I admire his tenacity and belief in a vigorous defence. On the other hand, I don’t think I could sleep at night, doing what he does.

    • Thanks for commenting, Matt. You’re right; I think I am understating such a propensity (though I’m intending to focus more on the uOttawa case than Greenspon; he’s just made himself part of the story).

      I don’t have it in for defense attorneys who defend the indefensible. In fact, I commend them (even though I don’t know if I could do the same). I agree with the argument that even the blatantly guilty deserve a vigorous defense (and if the players accused of the sexual assault go to trial, I hope they get such a defense). Of course, we’re not talking about a defense here. We’re talking about an attack. They’re going on the offensive and talking about suing the university. That’s beyond sleazy.

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