It’s not like women who watch the NFL didn’t know this was coming. After all, we’ve been down the road too many times, seen too many fans defiantly wearing Ray Rice or Ben Roethlisberger jerseys. We’ve, against our better judgment, delved into the comments surrounding players accused of harming a woman on social media too many times, only to see that it’s not just a few bad apples who defend athletes who harm women and wish ill on the rest of us, calling us “cunts” and “hoes” and “bitches.” We’ve never been let down by underestimating the sinister nature of the NFL fan who likes a player MORE because he’s accused of brutalizing women. And happily crows about it every chance he gets.
Even knowing all that, I’m not sure anyone was prepared for the sheer viciousness of the “support” Deshaun Watson has been getting from Browns fans. Watson was suspended for 11 games by the NFL back in August, for what can only be described as harrowing massage sessions with unsuspecting women (which he continues to deny). So far, Watson has settled claims of various forms of sexual assault and misconduct with 30 of them. That’s right, THIRTY. THIRTY women.
You would think that, for rational and logical people, it would stand to reason that, whenever 30 people independently share similar experiences with the same person, there’s probably at least some truth to it. But for many male sports fans, it’s just proof of the depths women will go to in order to connive and scheme their way into getting money out of an innocent man.
Of course, it’s hard to solely blame a fan base when the head of the organization (in this case Browns owner Jim Haslam) immediately gave them tacit permission to behave as they are, pointing out that their sex pest QB is the real victim here:
“And I struggle a little bit — is he (Watson) never supposed to play again? Is he never supposed to be part of society? Does he get no chance to rehabilitate himself? That’s what we’re going to do. And you can say, ‘well that’s because he’s a star quarterback.’ Well of course! But if he was Joe Smith he wouldn’t be on the headlines every day.”
Well, Jim, what I can tell you is that Watson is not supposed to play football for a good long while — let’s say a game for every victim? And you can’t start talking about rehabilitation and redemption when the guy is still publicly claiming his innocence and denying he did anything wrong.
Of course, give a bunch of testosterone-laden jerks an inch and they’ll take a mile. Haslam’s refusal to criticize Watson in even the slightest terms gave some Browns fans all the fuel they needed. And now we’re here:
And the image that really took the cake this weekend was this one:
First off, happy endings tailgaters, let me disabuse you of your legal misapprehension: Happy endings, in the way this tableau is implying, are INDEED illegal without the consent of both parties. Take a few moments and read what some of the women who accused Watson have to say about how these massages allegedly went down.
Second, why are there so many women happily involved in this? What, exactly, is the big joke about sexual assault allegations? Given that, in our lifetimes, 81 percent of women will experience some sort of sexual assault or harassment, I would love to know. Really. Let me in on the joke.
Given that so many (all?) of these pics appear to be taken at Browns games, Deadspin reached out to the Browns to ask what, if anything, the organization is doing to discourage fans from, you know, openly mocking sexual assault survivors. Are fans with “vulgar” shirts and signs getting tossed? Are signs being taken away from people? Has anyone been banned from First Energy?
Specifically, the FirstEnergy Stadium Fan Code of Conduct, which the Browns link to on their website, specifically prohibits the “use of inflammatory language,” as well as “offensive or vulgar clothing.” It also dictates that signs and banners “must be in good taste” and that “management reserves the right to determine what signs are in violation of stadium policy and confiscate signs that are in violation stadium policy.” And while the “happy endings” display reportedly took place in the infamous Muni tailgate lot outside FirstEnergy, even a statement from the Browns, letting fans know this kind of behavior is NOT okay, would go a long way towards shutting down the rampant misogyny that’s taken over Twitter and, apparently, Cleveland.
At the time of publication, the Browns had not responded to our emails.
Then again, women are used to being disappointed by the NFL, which loves to trumpet how many of us watch but steadfastly refuses to undertake any action that might validate our humanity. After all, as Jim Haslam so starkly reminded us, Deshaun Watson is a star quarterback, and women are not.