Rape allegations against Mason Greenwood force football to confront an empowering and toxic fan culture

A crisis confronts football, as a young player named Mason Greenwood, touted as an emerging star, the ‘next Ronaldo’, and usually full of praise and promises of greatness, has been accused of rape and death threats . With the survivor having had to air evidence in front of the world to be taken seriously, the case raises questions as to whether this will finally usher in football’s #MeToo moment.

This is not the first allegation of sexual assault against a high profile player. Cristiano Ronaldo is perhaps the most famous football star accused of rape. During the early stages of an initial investigation, Ronaldo admitted the woman “had said no and stopped several times”, but later changed his response. A few years later, when the Los Angeles police reopened the investigation, prosecutors quickly closed it because they could not prove the allegations “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Recently, the player’s return to Manchester United football club was celebrated with great fanfare and the allegations were swept under the rug. As the best football player in the world, his transfer from one club to another has been the subject of much debate and jubilation. Feminist group Level Up, however, had one final say in the whole affair: flying a plane with a “#Believe Kathryn Mayorga” banner over Old Trafford, the team’s home ground, where Ronaldo has played his “return” match for Manchester United. .

However, ardent fans of the player and the club continue to vilify the survivor as a ‘gold digger’ who ‘did it for attention’. When fans are asked to take a stand involving their favorite players, too often it’s on the opposite side of the survivors who have to move mountains just to be heard, let alone believed. The allegations against Mason Greenwood seem to deviate slightly from the pattern, but arguably only because the survivor posted evidence on social media. Yet despite Greenwood having been barred from sponsorship partnerships with Nike and removed from FIFA, he remains on Manchester United’s payroll even as the investigation continues.


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Manchester United is by no means the only complicit club. Manchester City have decided not to suspend another star player, Benjamin Mendy, who played while under an open police investigation for rape – four counts, involving three women. He continued to play for nine months. “The bottom line, however, is that this decision was very different from what one would reasonably have expected outside of the footballing bubble,” The Athletic noted.

In 2015 Sunderland suspended Adam Johnson, arrested on suspicion of sexual activity with a minor, for two weeks before lifting him. Johnson was later convicted. It shows that football, in particular, has a fan base that is willing to let a lot of things flow in the service of the sport’s ‘glory’. But whose glory is it, anyway?

“A 20-year-old footballer is under police investigation and United have shown where their allegiance lies. And it certainly doesn’t look like a victim or the hundreds of thousands of women and girls who may have seen this heartbreaking content on social media and thought, “Who the hell should I turn to if it was me?” notes, about Manchester United’s lukewarm response to the Greenwood allegations.

Misogyny in football fandom is a shadow the sport has never seriously faced. It reaches its climax during major tournaments; extensive research and statistical evidence has shown a causal relationship between football losses and domestic violence in England. Another study on fan forums showed that there is an openly misogynistic attitude towards women’s sport among male football fans.


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The rot is deep and is not only institutional, it is cultural. Specifically, it is rape culture. Despite all the talk of progressive values ​​of gender equality, anti-racism and anti-homophobia, nothing really happens when it really matters. And fans play a key role in protecting famous players from liability. Talented sports stars carry a halo of glory and legacy that makes them too big to ever touch.

When placed on a pedestal as gods on Earth, representing the pinnacle of human form, strength, and physical prowess, there is very little that can taint such a perception. Because when it comes to sports – a cultural phenomenon that carries great emotional weight among ordinary people – there is almost nothing that can convince fans that there are things worth taking into account. has more than a few points in a few games.

Some speculate that things could be about to change, with Greenwood’s allegations. But what if the survivor hadn’t had evidence to protect herself not only from Greenwood and the defense attorneys, but also from the world and legions of die-hard fans? Everyone is fully aware of how different it could have been in this situation – and therein lies the problem.

There should be a large-scale rejection of the traditional values ​​that sports represent – glory, healthy competition and strong team spirit. He ceased to be healthy a long time ago, and the team spirit is often a front for the team connivance. This change must come from the fans themselves, because it is in their name that football clubs are prepared to keep violence a secret – as long as it happens off the pitch.

James C. Tibbs