In April 2012, professional footballer Ched Evans was charged with rape and in November 2012 his sentence was upheld. Now Ched Evans has been released from prison and wishes to return to his job, which is playing football for Sheffield United. Sheffield United are his current employers and allegedly still paid him whilst he was in prison. Football and society as a whole is in a conundrum; should they accept that Mr Evans has served his time for his crime and has been rehabilitated or should they make an example of him and not allow him to play football again?
Rape should never be condoned, accepted or glorified in any part of society. Thoughts must be with the victim of this crime and one must understand that whenever she hears his name then it will remind her of the terrible ordeal which she went through. Ched has never admitted committing the crime and therefore, will not apologise for his actions. Meanwhile, according to the British Legal System there was enough evidence to convict him of the crime and at the end of the day, only the victim and Mr Evans know the truth.
There is a large problem here, which I feel supporters of Sheffield United are missing; and that is the case of Marlon King. Marlon King was convicted on a sexual assault and questioned twice about serious driving offences; however, in 2013 he played for Sheffield United. To my knowledge, no sponsors pulled out when Marlon was signed by Sheffield United, I do not recall any protest by Sheffield United supporters or backers, so what is the difference?
It's true that when Marlon King was released from prison, there was an uproar when he started playing football again. This was also the case with Luke McCormick who killed two young children through dangerous driving. Luke was accepted back to his old football club in time and I cannot imagine how the parents of the two young boys feel. The problem is; how can society differentiate between someone who has been convicted of rape and someone who has killed two young children through dangerous driving.
Footballers are role models and we do not want a convicted rapist being idolised by children. However, how about the footballers who set fireworks off in their own bathroom, the footballers who are addicted to drink or drugs and the footballers who commit domestic violence? Do we really want these people to be role models for children and fans? I am a great fan of Eric Cantona and when he did his Kung-Fu kick, he served his time and came back to football as a very professional role model. The Kung-Fu kick was totally wrong but nowhere near as disgusting as rape, but in some way Cantona showed contrition, not for the act but for not acting as a role model should. Ex-alcoholics and gamblers have also been remorseful for bringing the game into disrepute. Luke McCormick was very remorseful and apologised for his crime; Marlon King apologised and attended classes to help with his behaviour.
So where does this leave Ched Evans? If he shows remorse then he is accepting that he committed rape. He cannot do this because he is appealing against his conviction. On the otehr hand, millions of people (men and women) will see this as an injustice if he is allowed to play football and earn a staggering amount of money while acting as a role model. We do have a problem that he has served his time and the law must be followed. We have the scenario where he might win his appeal and his conviction will be quashed; in that case, where do we go from there? The victim will still be extremely traumatised and this will be made worse if Ched Evans is re-signed by Sheffield United or any other football club. Furthermore, sponsors and backers who have threatened to withdraw if he re-signs may face legal action.
In my opinion, if you are a footballer and you are convicted of a serious offence such as rape, sexual assault or causing death by dangerous driving, then you should be banned for life because you are a role model. No-one can condone a convicted rapist playing football again. Mr Evans could quite easily make a donation to a rape or alcohol awareness charity and explain that while he believes he is not guilty, he does not condone any kind of sexual assault and wished to encourage people to be aware of consenting to sex whilst intoxicated. Why he has not done this is beyond me.