How Did They Get There?

By Greg Couch
Updated: May 2, 2007

CHICAGO — People used to say that sports build character. Today, athletes are dropping their pants to that idea, and letting it see ”my [blank] [blank]…

”G-Reg is in tha’ house and I’m fittin’ to make these hos choke. Pull out my b—-, pull out my d— … If that b—- only knew that she was getting mutted by the whole crew.”

G-Reg was Greg Olsen, the Bears’ first-round pick Saturday. Those were some of the rap lyrics that he and other University of Miami football players performed in the group 7th Floor Crew when Olsen was a freshman. Reducing women to names, to parts and pieces. And we’ve focused on what that says about Olsen, about the Bears.

But that’s not really the point.

We’re having a national discussion about hip-hop, which has come to celebrate prison culture, and how its words, part of our kids’ daily lives, demean women.

But the locker-room culture in sports isn’t much nicer to women. Yet here we are blasting hip-hop while accepting the locker room as boys-will-be-boys.

Not acceptable.

I’m less concerned with Olsen, one person, than I am with why a group of college football players would think this way. What led them there?

Mark this down as example No. 452,361 of how our athletes have been taught to view women.

Let’s be honest here. Inside men’s locker rooms, women are considered less than men. In too many cases, they are seen not as whole human beings, only as parts.

By no means does every male athlete see women that way.

For all we know, Olsen is just a guy who did only one dumb thing. But we’ve seen enough of this now that the culture itself needs to be analyzed, criticized, called out.

And they want respect?Were boys just being boys when the whole Pacman Jones shooting scandal started? He reportedly brought $80,000 into a strip club to rain down on the dancers, which eventually led to a fight and then the shooting.

Athletes always are whining about being shown a lack of respect.

I know some people already are rolling their eyes, saying this is just how locker rooms are. I heard it all last summer after writing about Ozzie Guillen, who was trying to say someone was not a man, referring to him as a ”fag.” People questioned my masculinity and whether I ever played sports competitively. (I did.)

Those are not valid arguments, anyway, but actually prime examples.

This is just how locker rooms are? History doesn’t make it right. And these traditional locker-room identities of masculinity seem to be taking a more aggressive and hateful turn.

Cultural issues and personal responsibility work together. Personal decisions affect culture, reinforce it or change it.

Olsen might have been just a freshman trying to fit in. He has said he was wrong, that he was embarrassed and has matured since then. I’m not sure what more he can do.

But somehow, this group wasn’t shocked by these words. If this is just the way boys are boys today, well, as a man, let me say this:

Not acceptable.

Two years ago, a San Francisco 49ers PR staffer made a video to help teach players about media relations and diversity. He used topless dancers to help make the point. He was trying to speak the athletes’ language.

Boys can be boys, but men don’t have to be.

Who cares?It doesn’t bother me that the Bears drafted Olsen. But why didn’t they ask him about this? Why didn’t any of the teams? Olsen said no one brought it up.

Here’s why: They don’t care. Treating women that way, thinking of women that way, is acceptable in the sports culture. So if this was a one-time slip-up by a good person, or a pattern of behavior, that doesn’t really matter.

It is the leaders of our sports culture who must teach otherwise. Plenty of real leaders are out there saying and doing the right things. They are coaching little leagues, high schools, colleges.

But too often, character is secondary.

At the University of Colorado, at least nine women claimed to have been raped by football players; two female trainers said they had been sexually assaulted by an assistant coach or coerced into having sex with recruits. Recruits said they were promised sex. An assistant bought prostitutes for what a call girl said were ”very young, very athletic-looking men.”

When former Colorado kicker Katie Hnida said she had been raped by a player, the coach at the time, Gary Barnett, said she wasn’t respected by players because ”not only was she a girl, she was terrible.”

It took a public berating before Colorado finally rid itself of the athletic director, the school president, and, last, Barnett.

The hip-hop connection.

Meanwhile, the hip-hop culture is becoming increasingly wedded to the sports culture. The NBA All-Star break has turned into a spring break for hip-hop. NBA commissioner David Stern has put in dress codes to fight back the hip-hop image.

Several years ago, Lawrence Phillips dragged a woman down a flight of stairs by her hair at Nebraska, and his coach protected him, and then he kept getting chance after chance in the NFL.

Exactly why aren’t men insulted by people justifying bad behavior by saying boys will be boys? Dogs bark, pigs lie in slop and boys will be boys?

Not acceptable.

How did they get there?