When it comes to athletics, there’s no denying that the University of Michigan — a school known for the eardrum-shattering screams of its students during football games and the torrential sea of maize and blue that adorns our campus on a daily basis — is encompassed by a level of spirit that exceeds no bounds. Indeed, one hardly has to flutter an eyelid to find themselves surrounded by a highly pervasive and inclusive passion for the Big House and the Victors who proudly call it home. One only has to look around to see that at the University, athletics are more than a form of relaxation and entertainment. Here at the University, athletics — particularly football — are worshipped, revered and glorified.
And while I will be the first to admit that this level of passion marks one of the many alluring features of our university — because let’s be honest, what’s a college without its students — I cannot help but feel that our faithfulness to our athletic department and the individuals who compose it has the malignant potential to render us apathetic towards those who fall outside it or in some way challenge it.
On Nov. 16, newspapers and media companies all over the country entered a state of insatiable frenzy upon learning of the arrest of former defensive end player Frank Clark, who had been charged with domestic violence and assault after reportedly beating his girlfriend in an Ohio hotel. Police reports indicate that Clark, a senior, spent the night behind bars until being arraigned on the morning of Nov. 17. Clark was suspended from the team that same day.
But despite the degree to which the legal reports center around the victim — who through her altercation with Clark was rendered unconscious and sustained several bruises on her face — the media coverage of the event has been overwhelmingly limited to the football team. As far as local newspapers are concerned, Clark’s actions have affected nobody but his teammates. As far as local newspapers are concerned, the victim of this altercation — who because of Clark will bear the rusty chains of self-blame and psychological trauma — represents nothing less than an additional obstacle for The Team to overcome. This news coverage indirectly and directly diminishes the severity of Clark’s crime, and propels the message that we, as students, should be concerned more about the team than our peers.
The lessons taken away from domestic violence cases do not stop being absorbed with the prosecution of the perpetrator. It’s through the victim’s experiences that we as a society can recognize the epidemic that is relationship violence, and it’s through an analysis of our own values that we can propel forward and thus promote an environment that’s intolerant of such hostilities. Clark’s crime deserves attention not because of his status as a football player, but because of the pain it has triggered throughout our campus. Our actions are hardly justified by our position in society, and thus we must view Clark not as a god to be revered, but as a male figure who surrendered his masculinity by committing the worst of crimes. Football players — and all athletes for that matter — are not representative of our student body. This is not to say that we should boycott the sport or refuse to attend games because of this incident — this maneuver is both immature and deprecating to the entire university as a whole — but rather consider the degree to which we glorify the game and its players. It’s important to recognize that there’s more to our campus than The Team.
Neel Swamy is an LSA freshman.