St. Kilda AFL footballer Andrew Lovett is the latest high-profile sportsman to be publicly disgraced, after he was officially charged by police with one count of rape this week.
Lovett’s subsequent sacking by St. Kilda came as no real surprise to anyone. However it should be noted that St. Kilda CEO Michael Nettlefold made a point of saying the sacking was unrelated to the rape charge, but was instead due to Lovett’s unacceptable behavior in the off-season.
“During Andrew’s short tenure with the club, on a number of occasions he engaged in actions that were failures to comply with our standards of expected behavioral conduct. These failures related to his training commitments and a failure to contact Club Officials in a situation where he should have done so… we simply could not ignore such breaches. Nor could we ignore the damage being done to St Kilda’s reputation and decided unanimously as a club to terminate Andrew Lovett’s employment with the Saints.”
So it’s not so much that he may have raped a woman, of greater concern is… what exactly??? That he should have told the club about it first and foremost? His lack of commitment to fitness and skills training?
It’s all corporate double-speak, of course. St. Kilda doesn’t want to make any inference to the ongoing court case lest it come back to bite them. This is their veddy sneaky way of condemning Lovett for the rape charges in the eyes of supporters and sponsors without actually saying so.
Don’t feel too bad for Andy. He’s now lodging a breach of contract claim against St. Kilda for more than $2 million, stating he was ‘bullied’ within the workplace.
In the past 6 months the AFL pre-season has already seen several Carlton players arrested for public drunkenness. Geelong forward Matthew Stokes has been charged with trafficking cocaine. Essendon rising star Michael Hurley is accused of physically assaulting a taxi driver last September, and the now infamous Brendan Fevola-Brownlow Medal night debacle received unprecedented media coverage. After years of tut-tutting at Rugby League and the NRL’s endless cycle of player disciplinary infractions (Inglis, Mason, Stewart, Johns, et al), now it’s the AFL’s turn to sit in the naughty chair.
What interests me is this downward spiral in the behaviour of professional sportsmen in Australia (let’s leave Tiger and John Terry for another day). How did it come to this? Is this purely an instance of increased public and media scrutiny revealing what always was? Or are our athletes becoming increasingly socially irresponsible and boofhead-like in nature?
And, for the record, I don’t buy the ‘We’re paid to play sport, not be role models’ argument that gets tossed around every now and again as a means of excusing poor behavior. Andrew Lovett was making in excess of $350,000 a season. You’re not paid that money to live in a vacuum, devoid of social responsibility. As a sport like football evolves, and $10,000 pay cheques become $100,000, then I think it’s reasonable you don’t do stupid shit in the public eye.
Clubs are now schooling young recruits as soon as they walk in the door not just how to kick a football. They attend seminars on leadership (OK), contributing to the community (I can dig it), diet and nutrition (KFC Tower Burgers = bad), how to behave whilst in public (start with the cutlery on the outside and work your way in), how to treat women with respect…
They’re doing what, sorry?
Yep. As professional sport becomes increasingly all about revenue, sponsorship dollars and corporate niceties, football clubs have decided that is in their best interest to remind young athletes that verbally, physically and sexually assaulting women is generally not a good idea.
What? How else are they supposed to know something like that, right?
Maybe the system is at fault to a degree, throwing ludicrous amounts of money and celebrity at 18-year-old kids, exposing them to a world in which they’re perpetually told ‘yes, yes, yes’. Now, I can’t blame sport for all of these drinking and drug related mishaps, as (sadly) stupidity, addictive behavior and a culture of excess consumption is really more of a societal issue, don’t ya think? But I’d like to believe that every young man old enough to drive, vote and drink (though not necessarily at the same time) knows how to show women at least a modicum of respect.
But just in case…
When it comes to the ladies, guys, you probably should NOT:
Verbally abuse women, hit them, slap them, punch them, kick them, push them, grope them, molest them, rape them, stalk them, kidnap them, bind them, torture them or expect them to watch ‘Top Gear’ with you.
AFL Head Office, feel free to hit me up if you need me to explain this to your boys in a slightly less complex fashion using finger puppets and/or a Powerpoint slide show .