I have changed my mind about Ched Evans and the controversy around his release from prison. Previously, I stood by the mantra that anybody who had 'served their time' deserved the opportunity of rehabilitation, regardless of their profession and even their crime. Whilst I accept that logic is sound, the pathetic response from the men running football has made me so furious I have started to think again. Although the rule of law remains paramount, society still has a moral responsibility to act. Football should take a stand now.
In 2011, footballer Ched Evans raped a 19 year old waitress in a hotel room. Evans still denies the crime. Now 22, the girl has had to change her identity for the second time, after internet trolls began naming her and publishing her location. Her father has released a statement pleading Evans to stop claiming his innocence as part of a campaign to clear his name and to find a club to pay him money to play football. There is a website dedicated to his cause and he has released a video, that failed to mention the victim once and implied regret for his cheating on his long suffering girlfriend (who appears by his side) but not the lack of consent from a drunk 19 year old who he raped. It is reported that some football fans have begun chanting their support of Evans ('Super Ched Evans') and even more disturbingly, 'Evans is going to get you'. Greg Dyke, the FA Chairman, whilst of course remaining on the fence, was revealing when he said 'whether or not it was rape, the whole story was pretty sordid'.
When are men like Greg Dyke going to shut up and listen? Evans was convicted of rape. Dyke thinks it was sordid because the young girl was drunk and ended up in a hotel room with two guys. It was sordid because a man took advantage of a young girl for his own sexual pleasure. She did nothing wrong. Her life will never be the same again.
The country is still, by and large, run by Greg Dykes' - white men who seem completely unaware of our nation's misogynistic scandal. One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute. On average, 2 women a week are killed by current or former males partners. The gender pay gap means women are paid 15% less than their male counterparts. We have only 148 female MPs, compared to 501 men in the House of Commons. Our best selling paper still has topless women on page 3.
It's always so easy to say somebody has 'served their time' and should be allowed to 'get on with their life'. But our moral responsibilities do not terminate when the legal process is over. We all still have an ability to send a message about the type of world we want to live in. If football seeks to do this in any meaningful way, then clubs should not be employing Evans.
Too many men think its fine to go around doing what they want, when they want, to women. This needs to change. The Ched Evans case would be a good place to start.