Saturday, September 26, 2015
Objectivity, Perspective Needed in Kane Controversy
The Twittersphere blew up Wednesday when the prosecuting lawyer in the Patrick Kane sexual assault case suggested that classified evidence had been tampered with. The alleged victim's mother found what appeared to be the plastic bag from the rape kit administered to the young woman. It was torn, empty, and shoved in a crevice at her front door.
Immediately after the press conference announcing this development, everyone with a keyboard, an Internet connection, and an opinion became Nancy Drew. Ladies and gentlemen, justice in 2015.
Now, my purpose in this piece is not to be a Patrick Kane apologist or to jump on the lynch mob who wants him taken down. I am simply here to graciously request two things from a media culture that isn't necessarily known for them: objectivity and perspective.
This development certainly matters, but it proves nothing. Anyone saying otherwise and concluding that this proves Kane to be innocent or guilty is operating under false premises. Don't believe them.
I've developed the following list of suggestions for those who are certain that Kane did or did not sexually assault this woman — and for those convinced Kane did or did not tamper with evidence.
First, for the pro-Kane camp:
1) Don't root for Patrick Kane to be exonerated because he's good at hockey. I'm a diehard Blackhawks fan, but my passion for humanity runs much deeper. If he is guilty, I want him to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I urge you to maintain a similar stance.
2) Don't jump to the conclusion that the alleged victim is a "gold digger." Making the brash assumption that she did anything wrong is not only potentially blatant victim blaming, but it's giving this woman the very same treatment you are asking others to avoid with Kane.
3) Don't be naïve when people suggest Kane may have had a motive to tamper with the evidence. Let's be honest, in the event he is guilty, it absolutely makes sense why he would want to tamper with evidence. His alternatives are making millions of dollars playing a game he loves or going to prison. It's not rocket science.
Now, for those who want Kane's head on a stick in the middle of town square:
1) Don't assume Kane supporters are also somehow trivializing sexual assault. Dave Zirin of The Nation writes a thoughtful article on the issue, but asserts that NHL fans are "taking this opportunity to effectively merge their love of Patrick Kane with their cheerleading of rape."
With all due respect, there is a ton of grey area between those two concepts. It is entirely reasonable to love Patrick Kane as an athlete and hate rape, to hope that a sports hero is not a criminal but be outraged at the concept of abuse. Do some fans blind themselves to reality because of their love for celebrities? Of course. Does that mean that every time a fan hopes an athlete is innocent, he or she is doing so as an endorsement of "rape culture?" Absolutely not.
2) Don't jump to conclusions and assume this bag is anything more than just a bag. Even the local police department, an hour after the press conference, claimed that all of the evidence was accounted for in their headquarters. There are myriad of possibilities for how and why that bag ended up there. An officer in charge of the evidence may have irresponsibly disposed of the bag after transferring evidence to another container, a "good Samaritan" could be trying to help the young woman find justice, a cruel person could be taunting the family, or an insensitive dolt could be playing a sick prank to get Kane further in trouble. Right now, all of these options are still within the realm of "possible," no matter how improbable.
3) Don't stray from what this issue is really about. I've heard people compare it to the Ray Rice situation and say that Kane is getting better treatment due to his race. This isn't about race. Listen, Rice's act was caught on video — that's a completely different animal. If Kane is proven guilty of either assaulting the victim or of tampering with evidence, reasonable people will not give him a free pass because of his race. Proof is proof. We, as a society, must have faith that the rational will prevail (even though, admittedly, this isn't always the case). Once this faith is lost in our system, we engage in nihilism. Let's not go there.
In the end, all I am asking is for patience. Acknowledge that, unless you are the accuser, Kane, and perhaps a handful of people near Buffalo, NY, you do not know enough to pass judgment yet.
Do I hope that Kane is innocent? Of course. On a sports level, I don't like the idea that a great athlete might have done a horrible thing. But more importantly, on a human level, I get sick to my stomach at the thought of someone's personhood being violated. Will I change my opinion of Kane if he is proven guilty? In a heartbeat.
But not yet. That's part of the agreement we tacitly make when choosing to live in America. We abide by the notion that nobody can be vilified based on hearsay alone. I urge you to remember that, as this case develops.