What if Chris Copeland were a raped woman?

“I want to thank all the fans, friends, teammates, coaches and the Pacers organization for their support and prayers during this time. I also want to apologize to everyone, particularly the NBA and the Pacers for my bad choice at being out at that time. I am doing as well as can be expected and I will work hard to make a full recovery.”

-Statement from Chris Copeland


What if Chris Copeland were a female athlete found assaulted and/or raped?  Would the foregoing statement be issued, or would the premise behind it be met with anything but outrage prior to its public dissemination? Indeed, would anyone even foresee a need for it?

Those are the squirm-inducing questions, in the aftermath of the events of April 8.

For those not in the know, Copeland is a backup forward with the Indiana Pacers of the NBA. Copeland is also married to Katrine Saltara, with whom he was enjoying an evening on the town, culminating with a brief side trip at 10ak Club in New York City into the wee hours.

As Copeland and his wife exited, they, along with another unnamed woman, were stabbed by a knife wielding lowlife. Luckily, the wounds were treatable and Copeland and Saltara were rushed to the hospital.

The timbre of the conversation topics that ensued reflect the gendered cognitive dissonance in a public discourse where “blaming the victim” is supposedly verboten. Why then, did the general discussion about Copeland involve some combination of the following?:

“What was he doing out at 4am?”

“Should NBA players have curfews?”

“Why did he put his team in jeopardy?”

“Nothing Good happens after (insert random, arbitrary time)am.”

Because our collective comfort and relative tolerance with even passive/aggressive victim blaming appears contingent on Y chromosomes. So a few provocative things bear speaking aloud.

Theresa Braeckell bears no blame for what Missouri Running Back Derrick Washington did to her in 2010. Jerry Sandusky’s victims did not “entice” him. Ma’lik  Richmond and Trent Mays bear full responsibility for what occurred in a Steubenville bedroom, as do Brandon Vandenburg and Corey Batey for what occurred at Vanderbilt University.

Here’s what’s also true. Kassandra Perkins and Steve McNair are the same.

Cherica Adams and Fred Lane are the same.

Rihanna and Ivan Brannam (Jennifer Capriati’s domestic violence victim) are the same.

And Chris Copeland is the same as the recent spring break gang rape  and shooting victims. All deserve our compassion, support and redress in the form of state imposed penalties for the agents of their suffering.

Full S-T-O-P.

So Chris Copeland, a reserve athlete who plays little, is out with his wife a full 16 hours before he is due at work. Why shouldn’t he be? After all, the cycle of NBA life is largely nocturnal. Most games are at night, and teams frequently spend a week or more away from home, where players often sleep during the day. When one factors in that he had his wits about him and wasn’t causing a ruckus, what’s the problem?

Because of our collective impulse to apply the “You Shoulda Seen It Coming” doctrine to men, regardless of circumstance.

Credit should be extended to those who refused to take the bait. Gregg Doyel mocked those who assailed Copeland for throwing himself into an assailant’s brandished knife. Vice Sports’ Dan O’Sullivan displays a level of moral clarity and consistency that others lacked, differentiating between “bad choices and bad luck” and pointing out that Copeland “owes an apology to no one.” Unfortunately, there were far too few of them.

Fortunately, Copeland wasn’t openly mocked like pro golfer Robert Allenby. Allenby reported being assaulted, kidnapped and robbed outside a Honolulu bar after a tournament round. While there are certainly details in Allenby’s account which warrant scrutiny, and journalists are duty bound to apply critical thinking to any allegation, he certainly incurred more demonstrable injuries than UVa’s Jackie did, so an attack is not out of the question, even if, as some believe, he may have “fallen down drunk” after leaving a club. Indeed, at least one local woman observed an altercation of some sort.

But never mind Mr. Allenby. Whatever happened, he must’a had it coming.

If this echo sounds familiar, it should. When Oakland University basketball players Duke Mondy and Dante Williams were falsely accused of rape, Coach Greg Kampe had no issue suspending them , saying that the players, not the false accuser, “put themselves and our basketball team and, more importantly, Oakland University, in this situation.” The Sports Reporters’ Mitch Albom suggested that athletes learn a lesson from the Jameis Winston case, not to “put themselves in that position.” Even Brian Banks, it seems, has internalized to some degree the Cult Of Male Self-Loathing the NFL has adopted in the wake of the league’s capitulation to the Gender Grievance Industrial Complex, stating someone accused should sit so as “not to draw attention to himself.”

With murder/domestic violence victim Steve McNair, it was “he is a cheater, why shouldn’t we spit on his grave.”

With domestic violence victim Tiger Woods, it was “why was he poking the pies of Perkin’s waitresses” instead of “why isn’t Elin Woods in custody?”

Why was Chris Copeland out with his wife at 4am? I really couldn’t care less. Those who do care, given the context, are the ones who owe Chris Copeland, and humanity, an apology.

[Ed. note: Image of Chris Copeland was originally posted to Flickr by Keith Allison at http://flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/15537489920. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.]

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