It is not yet clear whether convicted rapist Ched Evans will be signed for another football club after he served half of a five-year prison sentence for rape. According to BBC Sport he was in talks with Oldham Athletic and there was an outcry after it came out that Sheffield United had offered to let him use their training facilities.
That people are uncomfortable with the idea of a convicted rapist being allowed back into the warm hub of professional football has led to some hand-wringing in the media (both social and traditional). It starts with "Not that I'm defending him like, but...", a sentiment followed by quite a lot of "well he's served his sentence, hasn't he?" and rounded out by "he has to be re-integrated back into society, hasn't he?". Devil's advocates abound. As do rape apologists.
Really what this whole case is about is our faith in the justice system. We don't want to overstep the bounds of appropriate punishment as laid down in law. That's a good thing. Ched Evans has served his sentence and to advocate for further punishment would be to encourage vigilantism. Vigilantism is what those charming chaps on Twitter who joke about "doing a Ched Evans" and who have made his victim change her name and move house more than five times through their persistent trolling are doing. According to ITV, she spent Christmas on her own this year because it was too dangerous to go home.
Vigilantism is not the answer but nor is it ensconced in law that when you get out of prison everyone has to pretend that nothing has happened or that being punished in prison means you get to "opt out" of facing the day to day consequences of what you have done.
Its remarkable ability to face up to consequences is not something that football culture is well-known for. That this case - and the desperate wrangling to get Evans a second chance - comes out of that community, cosseted by super injunctions and expensive lawyers and blind-eyed clubs, can come as absolutely no surprise. This is the same culture that allowed John Terry to walk away with a four match ban after calling an opponent a "fucking black cunt". There are no real consequences for bad behaviour if you can pay and play well. The Ched Evans case gives the public a powerful opportunity to exercise our right to decide who we elevate in our communities and who gets to occupy positions of huge privilege.
We do not owe Ched Evans anything more than is due to him under the law and being a footballer is not a fundamental human right. Being celebrated and re-elevated to the life of luxury that you decided to jack off when you raped someone is not a fundamental human right. Evans has to face the social consequences of what he has done and in this case, the consequence is that we don't want him to be a footballer again. Ever.