The news at the intersection of football and violence against women is never positive. Every season, there are stories about cover-ups in management and a locker room "code of silence" that shields abusers and threatens those who want to speak out. Yet there is one player who is truly a flicker of hope in a desolate landscape. That player is Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy.
The eight-year veteran made news last spring in both words and deeds. In words, he penned an essay for the Players' Tribune called "Man Up" where he wrote: "The dehumanization and objectification of women are not issues that are specific to male athletes. They are societal problems. But they tend to be more associated with athletes in part because we are often idolized because of our athletic ability. In many ways, were considered models of masculinity, which is at the very root of a lot of these issues.... I want to use my platform as an NFL linebacker to discuss how we talk about rape and sexual assault--because not enough men are."
Indeed, Levy pledged to raise the money to test 11,000 abandoned rape kits found in a warehouse and shunted aside by Wayne County prosecutors. Levy's words were a bracing statement in a world where women are viewed as, in the words of one player, "road beef," and claims of sexual assault are associated with false accusations and extortion.
I spoke to DeAndre Levy about why he has chosen to make this his cause. He said, "When I was at school, there were a lot of things going on that I never thought to question and I never thought to see as a problem because it was so normalized. There were two specific instances where I would hear guys talking about things that happened, laughing and joking about things that happened, even sharing photos. At the time, as an eighteen-year-old, I never thought to question it. It's just something that was a part of locker-room culture, if you want to go back to locker-room talk.
"Part of locker-room culture is just sharing wild stories...