Reimer: UMass suspending football coach Mark Whipple for 'rape' analogy is necessary overreaction

Alex Reimer
October 01, 2018 - 1:24 pm

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

UMass didn’t have to suspend Mark Whipple for comparing a blown officiating call to rape. An apology would’ve sufficed, and saved Whipple from becoming front page fodder. 

But sometimes, an overreaction is needed to correct unpalatable habits or language. Given the cultural reckoning we have started to experience in this country over the last year, I am not going to sit here and complain about football coaches no longer being allowed to use the word “rape” in postgame press conferences. Find another word. It’s not that hard.

UMass announced Sunday it is sidelining Whipple for one week without pay. After the Minutemen’s embarrassing 58-42 loss to Ohio University over the weekend, Whipple called out one of the referees for what he thought was a missed pass interference call. "We had a chance there with 16 down and they rape us, and he picks up the flag," Whipple said, per The Athens Messenger.

In a statement, UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford called Whipple’s crude reference “highly inappropriate, sensitive, and inexcusable.” Whipple apologized, too, and will undergo sensitivity training.

This episode will wind up just being a blemish on Whipple’s resume. The news cycle lasts approximately 12 minutes, and reasonable people realize he misspoke. More than anything else, Whipple is a symbol. For decades, the word “rape” has been callously thrown around in sports locker rooms to describe tedious events like missed calls or other supposed on-field injustices. It is a crass synonym for “screwed.” If coaches around the country now expunge that word from their vocabularies, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. The end result here is positive, and if Whipple has to take some shrapnel in the process, so be it. Men are not the victims of this movement, contrary to what 11 old men on the Senate Judiciary Committee may think. 

Yes, Whipple was almost certainly disciplined because of the times we live in. On Twitter, my good pal Gerry Callahan mentioned nothing would’ve happened if Whipple used the word “murdered.” But so what? As we all know, survivors of sexual assault and rape are routinely put through hell in this country. There are reasons why more than two-thirds of sexual assaults still go unreported. Too often, the crime is dismissed and claims are doubted. Remember: outside of Bill Cosby, no powerful man caught up in the #MeToo movement has gone to prison yet. The worst punishment alleged serial sexual assaulters Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose have faced is forced exile in their multimillion-dollar homes. Les Moonves could still get $120 million in severance pay from CBS. No tears should be shed for the men here.

Look no further than what’s happening in Columbus, Ohio to see how seriously violence against women is taken in the college football world. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, the highest-paid public official in the state, was suspended just three games for covering up domestic violence on his staff, and then repeatedly lying about it. 

Whipple is paying for our unconscionable handling of sexual misconduct. This is not just about him using a bad verb to describe a blown call on the gridiron. He is a living example of how the pendulum is now (slowly) starting to swing in the opposite direction, and what was OK even five years ago is no longer kosher. The word “rape” should not be used in a flippant matter. There is no slippery slope here. Tons of words are unacceptable to say in public or in certain settings. Let’s add “rape” to the list. 

It's hard to see the objection to that.