Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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The Blackhawks Assault Scandal Is Most Likely the Tip of the Iceberg

Parade of Chicago Blackhawks fans

When you’re groomed, or sexually assaulted, as I have been, you are ashamed and think that you’re the only one. Then the truth – that you are not alone – most always reveals itself, and when that happens the floodgates usually open up, and a trove of revelations follows.

The priest who assaulted me was named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report from two years ago that found Catholic Church leaders covered up sexual abuse involving hundreds of priests and over 1,000 victims. It’s always, always, always about the cover-up. The Pittsburgh Diocese fronted for Father Dave for years. Had they had the guts to stop him, I and many others would have been spared.

Cardinal Bernard Law tried for years to shield all the secrets of priests abusing young boys in the Boston Diocese, and when he was exposed by The Boston Globe in 2002, I and perhaps millions of others realized that we weren’t alone. Many came forward. Many investigations started. What looked originally as a “one-off” quickly became an international scourge on the church.

The lessons learned from the Catholic Church imbroglio is to hide the crime at your own peril, and don’t mistake those crimes of assault and pedophilia as “gay scandals.” The sins of the Father’s, so to speak, are being repeated by the leaders of sports teams and leagues. Rather than admit to the occurrence of sexual crimes in their ranks, NCAA athletic departments, gymnastics, and now the National Hockey League are paying the price.

No one should conflate sexual crimes with being gay. I just happened to be gay, and that really ended up having nothing to do with what Father Dave did to me. That took me a very long time to understand since I thought I was singled out. It turns out the Church treated hiding “gay priests” more seriously than it did protecting abused children.

Just like what happened to Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was abusing boys for years through his non-profit that helped disadvantaged youth, brazenly assaulting some of the boys in the Nittany Lions locker-room.

The administration of the college, and head coach Joe Paterno, worked to push the scandal of Sandusky under the rug because they treated it as a “gay scandal” and that would reflect poorly on Penn State’s rugged football program. All it took was a couple of men to come forward and reveal the horrific truth about the sadistic Sandusky and his crimes, and in 2011 Penn State’s dirty secret of mislabeling the incidents was revealed. One person led to hundreds who said that Sandusky had assaulted them.

What started out as a blip became a large blotch. Along with Sandusky’s sentence, the school’s president, vice president, and athletic director were charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, and they resigned. So did Paterno in November of 2009, and who died soon after in January 2010. Once again, was it really worth protecting and hiding the “gay” Sandusky over stopping him from committing more crimes?

In September, America was riveted when female gymnastic stars testified before Congress about another convicted sex offender Larry Nassar, who for years took advantage of his position as a team doctor to sexually assault female gymnasts with Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. The school and the organization hid Nassar’s behavior because it was, like a gay scandal, an embarrassing “sexual scandal.”

Then, like all of the others before them, a few gymnasts came forward and went public about Nassar and the pithy reaction to his behavior by MSU and USA Gymnastics. And again, both ended up paying heavy fines and saw resignations from their respective leaderships.

Those damages that the entities incurred, again, paled in comparison to the disrupted lives of hundreds of girls, many of whom would have been spared had the college and the organization reported the crimes rather than shielding a “sex scandal.”

Yesterday, like a broken record, we found out about another sexual assault cover-up, and this one had nothing to do initially with pedophilia, but everything to do with an alleged gay man gone way wrong who created another “gay scandal” in sports.

In 2010, the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks were confronted with an allegation by one of their young players who said a male coach, who is reportedly gay, threatened him to have sex. And though the circumstances are a bit different than the Sandusky and Nassar cases, there is a similarity.

The Blackhawks tried to sweep the “gay scandal” under the rug, and as a result, the team’s long-time general manager Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, announced yesterday that they were resigning as a result.

Bowman also informed USA Hockey on Tuesday that he would be stepping down as general manager of the 2022 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Bowman’s mistake was conflating, like everyone else, a scandal for a crime.

As The Advocate reported yesterday in a lengthy story, Bowman said he was leaving as the organization published the findings of an investigation into sexual assault claims against their former video coach Brad Aldrich. A sexual assault is alleged to have occurred in May 2010 as the team was in its first Stanley Cup Finals in 18 years. Apparently, another player and an intern also had incidents with Aldrich years ago.

Because of the team’s silence, the damage from Aldrich continued. He went on to work for the U.S. national hockey team and for high school and college teams. While working at Houghton High School in Michigan, he was arrested on sexual assault charges. He pleaded guilty in 2013 to fourth-degree criminal sexual assault involving a minor. The high school player has now filed suit against the Blackhawks – as he should!

The Blackhawks, Penn State, Michigan State, and U.S.A. Gymnasts are akin to the Archdiocese of Boston. Silence only gets you into deeper and more troubled waters, and by treating it as a “gay scandal” or a “sex scandal,” you end up putting more lives at risk by not reporting a crime.

The Sandusky, Nassar, and now Aldrich incidents took place mostly a decade ago (some for Nassar only in the last few years), and with Sandusky and Nassar, just like the Catholic Church, the revelations escalated exponentially once the truth was exposed.  Will the same thing happen to Aldrich? Are there more victims?

I think we only know a fraction of the sexual abuse crimes that occur in sports, not only in high school but collegiate and professional leagues as well. Like the Catholic Church, the Sandusky, Nassar, and now Aldrich aren’t one-offs. They never are, and it seems that when one popped up, it eventually turned into a game of Whack-a-Mole for those in charge of protecting the athletes.

U.S.A. Today reported in August that one in four college athletes say they experienced sexual abuse from an authority figure. They cited an example from a 59-year-old man who only last year came forward about abuse he allegedly incurred in the 1980s from the University of Michigan athletic doctor, Robert Anderson.

And The Detroit Free Press reported that the University of Michigan administrators knew about Anderson's sexual assaults on athletes and students since the start of his tenure at the school in the 1970s, but did not act, causing decades of pain, a report found.

Then there is former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert who was indicted and convicted in 2015 of financial crimes related to paying hush money to cover up repeated incidents of child molestation when he was a high school coach. It took one man to come forward to talk about how Hastert abused him and then paid him to keep quiet.

One man led to several more, and when Hastert was sentenced to prison, the judge called him a “serial child molester.” If someone of Hastert’s stature was a repeated offender, we can only imagine how many other “coaches” have used their power over their athletes.

When all of the Hastert scandal hit the media, I was continually asked by people, “Did you know he was gay?” Again, society is quick to misinterpret that Hastert was a pedophile – he was not gay.

It just never ends. And it never ends because the powers that be don’t have the guts to tell the truth so that it does end once and for all. And that’s bad for all the victims who usually are too ashamed to come forward, and bad for victims who shouldn’t have been victims in the first place.

Male athletes are afraid to be more forthcoming, lest their masculinity or their status as a professional competitor might be called into question, and those who have been victims most likely think that they are the only ones. Further, by coming forward, they believe, like their superiors and coaches, that they run the risk of being tagged as “gay.”

That was true in the Catholic Church for most of us who were victims. People believed that many victims were “gay” like the priests. That misnomer is the cold hard truth, and it’s taken years for people to understand the difference. Some still don’t.

I lived with the curse of Father Dave for decades. Initially, I would have never come forward because I thought he knew my deep dark secret of being gay, and that’s why he groomed and put his hands on me. And I was frightened almost to death about somebody thinking I was gay. I also believed that it made me less of a man because of what he did.

How many athletes are out there feeling the same way? How many have had crimes committed against them, and think they would be treated like a pariah if anyone found out? They look at what happened to them not as a crime, but as an affront to their sexuality. How many of them are needlessly feeling that way? And how many of their coaches or staff would try to hide the truth if they came forward because no one in sports wants a “gay scandal.”

Tags: Commentary, Crime

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