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It’s On Us: In the Clippers’ Locker Room, Sexual Assault Isn’t “Locker Room Talk”

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SBNation and Clips Nation are proud partners with It’s On Us, an organization that combats sexual assault.

Chris Paul PBA Celebrity Invitational Bowling Tournament Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Professional Bowlers Association

It has never been Clips Nation’s place to talk about politics. Although American government is my other passion and my field of study, that topic has been off the table for Clips Nation, because sports is an area where people turn to get away from the stressful and confusing dilemmas we face in the real world. Keeping true to that mission, I seek not to tell you which candidates you should support or which policies are superior.

However, as a partner with It’s On Us and a person who has taken their pledge, I feel obliged to approach a touchy issue this week, where the public conversation has intersected with the sports world on the point of sexual assault. As you can see, this happens to be a time period where we are showcasing our partnership with It’s On Us—the Clips Nation logo has been temporarily replaced with a hybrid. The combination of these factors, and the Clippers players’ responses, would make idleness irresponsible and hypocritical.

The It’s On Us pledge states the following:

I think that not discussing this issue, especially during this week, would be a failure to meet the last portion of the pledge that I signed: to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable.

In the past week or so, issues regarding respecting women and sexual assault have dominated the public conversation, from social media to traditional news. In many cases, the sports locker room has been used as an example of a setting in which degrading, objectifying, and even assaulting women is acceptable or normalized, as phrases like “men being men” are thrown around.

I do not think it would surprise any sports fan to learn that crude language is sometimes used in sports locker rooms, especially referring to women. This culture is something that I hope organizations and individuals continue to discourage. However, there is a fine line between crude and demeaning language that objectifies women and remarks that casually normalize sexual assault and even assert that it is excusable for celebrities.

While our goal as fathers, sons, brothers, and human beings should be to treat women with respect in all arenas, there is a special and more urgent need to denounce this normalization of sexual assault. When this need became apparent, several members of the Los Angeles Clippers stepped up. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register wrote about this earlier today, sharing the following words from Clippers players and Doc Rivers:

“I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms and been on a lot of busses and been mic’d up a lot,” Griffin said. “I’ve never heard those types of things said. To just attribute it to locker room talk, it kind of gives guys who spend a lot of time in locker rooms a bad name.”

[...]

“They’re bad comments. They’re demeaning to women. I have a daughter,” Rivers said. “When people throw out that (term) ‘locker room talk,’ there’s nobody talking like that in the locker room. Is there swearing in the locker room? Every other word. But, there’s nobody demeaning people. There are players in our locker room with sisters, wives and daughters. There’s not that type of talk in anyone’s locker room. That bothered me when I heard it, but what bothered me more was the original tape. I didn’t need the other thing to bother me.

“It’s what we’re in right now, talking about that instead of policy and education. That’s the biggest crime.”

Jamal Crawford simply tweeted “Locker room?” in response to the controversy.

A video on SBNation’s Facebook page shows Clippers point guard Chris Paul saying, “Our locker room’s not like that...”, along with multiple other professional athletes echoing the same sentiment.

It’s good of the Clippers to come out and dispel the narrative that “locker room talk” does not endorse sexual assault. It’s important for athletes in different sports to continue to come out and spread that message.

But it’s also important for all of us to realize that even if this kind of dialogue was normal in locker rooms, it still shouldn’t be acceptable. If “men being men” means “men committing sexual assault”, then being a man needs to mean something different.

It’s on us to take the steps outlined in the It’s On Us pledge. This issue isn’t political, and regardless of your politics or your preferred candidate, I encourage you to join me in taking the pledge by clicking this link.

In any setting in which sexual assault or degrading language towards women is still seen as acceptable, the solution cannot come solely from the top down. The cultural change must start on an individual level, which means really thinking carefully about how we think about women, how we talk about women, and how we treat women.

This is why at Clips Nation we will continue to moderate our comment sections in a way that complies with our values of inclusion and respect. In order to make the valued female members of our community comfortable, we will continue to delete comments and ban users when we encounter the kind of language that degrades or objectifies women.

Additionally, I encourage all of us to join the Clippers in reflecting on our thoughts, words, and actions in the other areas of our lives. This is how we can individually effect positive change for the women in our lives and begin to change the narrative on “locker room talk” and “men being men”.