The headline — “Sexist ‘Scouting Report’ ends Harvard Men’s Soccer Season” — and the story underneath it, gripped me for a few reasons.
As a sportswriter for 30 years, I have endured more sexism than I care to remember. And, the disturbing tale broke my heart because my daughter is a high school and club soccer player, very much like the young women on the Harvard soccer team who were so crudely objectified by their male peers, guys they considered friends.
In case you missed the story, Harvard University canceled the remaining two games of the 2016 men’s soccer season following an investigation into reports of a tradition of male players keeping an annual “Scouting Report” ranking female soccer players’ physical attributes and perceived sexual appeal. The men’s team will forfeit the chance to compete for the Ivy League title or in the NCAA tournament this season.
“The decision to cancel a season is serious and consequential, and reflects Harvard’s view that both the team’s behavior and the failure to be forthcoming when initially questioned are completely unacceptable, have no place at Harvard, and run counter to the mutual respect that is a core value of our community,” Harvard president Drew Faust wrote in a statement.
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Faust was “deeply distressed to learn that the appalling actions of the 2012 men’s soccer team were not isolated to one year or the actions of a few individuals.”
My initial reaction upon glancing over the wire stories was maybe the punishment was too harsh. Nobody was physically assaulted. These guys are in college, and surely guys in college locker rooms and fraternity houses rate women based on their looks. I agreed they need to be educated, and punished, but I wondered if ending their season was an extreme reaction in our sometimes oversensitive PC-obsessed world.
Then I read the sexually explicit original story in the Harvard Crimson, the school newspaper, which broke the story. And with each disgusting detail, I began to change my stance. Harvard absolutely did the right thing. Missing two games and the postseason is a justified consequence. Hopefully, this will prevent them from bringing that mentality to their workplaces and their homes.
In the “Scouting Report,” each woman was assigned a hypothetical sexual “position” in addition to her position on the soccer field.
“She seems relatively simple and probably inexperienced sexually, so I decided missionary would be her preferred position,” a male soccer player wrote about one of the female players. “Doggy style,” “The Triple Lindy,” and “cowgirl” were listed as possible positions for other women.
Each female player also was tagged with a nickname. They called one woman “Gumbi” because “her gum to tooth ratio is about 1 to 1. For that reason, I am forced to rate her a 6.”
“She seems to be very strong, tall and manly so, I gave her a 3 because I felt bad. Not much needs to be said on this one folks,” was the comment on another player.
Some of the comments were too lewd to repeat here.
As I read the story, my mind wandered back to Tuesday, opening day of the Miami-Dade girls’ high school season. I happened to mention to a few parents at my daughter’s game how cool it was that many players from the school’s boys’ team showed up and were cheering for the girls. That didn’t happen during my high school days.
High school boys’ and girls’ soccer players appear to respect each other now, commiserating about on-field battles, coaches and club tournaments.
I shudder to think that those same boys would write such horrific things about the girls’ team. But, if it happened at Harvard, it can happen anywhere.
Six of the women in the scouting report broke their silence in a Crimson op-ed. Kelsey Clayman, Brooke Dickens, Alika Keene, Emily Mosbacher, Lauren Varela and Haley Washburn said they were “beyond hurt” but not surprised to learn that men they considered close friends treated them that way.
“The sad reality is that we have come to expect this kind of behavior from so many men, that it is so ‘normal’ to us we often decide it is not worth our time or effort to dwell on,” they wrote.
“In all, we do not pity ourselves, nor do we ache most because of the personal nature of this attack. More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives. We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this.”
“ ‘Locker room talk’ is not an excuse because this is not limited to athletic teams. The whole world is the locker room. Yet in it we feel blessed to know many men who do not and would never participate in this behavior out of respect for us — out of respect for women. To them we are grateful, and with them we strive to share a mutual respect through our own actions and words.”
Mutual respect. Is that really too much to expect in 2016? Apparently so.
EPL: Chelsea (25), Manchester City (24), Arsenal, Liverpool (23), Tottenham (20).
La Liga: Real Madrid (24), Barcelona (22), Atletico Madrid, Sevilla (21), Villarreal, Real Sociedad (19).
Ligue 1: Nice (29), Monaco (26), PSG (23), Guingamp (21), Rennes (20).
Serie A: Juventus (27), Roma (23), Milan, Lazio (22), Napoli (21).
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (24), Leipzig (21), Hoffenheim, Berlin (20).
Sunday: MLS conference semifinals — Colorado vs. L.A. (2 p.m., ESPN), N.Y. Red Bulls vs. Montreal (4:15 p.m., ESPN), NYCFC vs. Toronto (6:30 p.m., FS1), Dallas vs. Seattle (9 p.m., FS1); Arsenal vs. Tottenham (6:55 a.m., NBCSN), Liverpool vs. Watford (9:10 a.m., NBCSN), Swansea City vs. Man U (10 a.m., CNBC), Leicester City vs. West Brom (11:25 a.m., NBCSN).