Wednesdays are hard. The memories of the previous weekend’s shenanigans have long worn off, and the anticipation of the weekend to come is yet to take hold. Your only escape from the tedium of your existence is the small pleasure of wasting time on the internet while on the company dime. There’s always the little respite provided by the chance to chuckle over a silly soccer blog while you hold off on filing those TPS reports. Fortunately for you, we at the Soccer Gods always deliver. We are the oasis of light-heartedness in your desert of despair. So let’s talk about child rape. This is the Hump Day Dumpster Dive: Special Victims Unit.
Soccer clubs love to make a show of caring deeply about social issues, but mostly when it is convenient to do so. Manchester United will gladly peddle images of inclusion in promotional campaigns with major sponsors, but still remain one of only two premiership clubs without a women’s team, presumably because it is not profitable enough to relaunch one. Liverpool will send its team out to warm up in those “Kick Racism out of Football” t-shirts, but will also throw the full weight of its support behind a racist if he happens to be their best player. Barcelona proudly touts itself as “more than a club,” but it doesn’t let that get in the way of accepting a lucrative shirt sponsorship deal from a national airline accused of systematically discriminating against women, from a country with a questionable human rights record.
Even if there are certain clubs and leagues that can be held up as positive examples, it should be clear that soccer on the big stage has a less than stellar record on the important issues, and a particularly poor track record with crimes against women. It was certainly in keeping with the status quo then, when Sunderland failed to take any serious internal action when human cesspool Adam Johnson was arrested for sexual activity with a minor almost a year ago.
The club briefly suspended Johnson, but then lifted that suspension days later when the player’s bail was extended. Not coincidentally, Sunderland was fighting to avoid relegation at the time, and Johnson was considered to be a key contributor. After missing just two games, Johnson returned to feature heavily in the side that eventually won enough points to remain in the top flight, and he even scored the winning goal in the Tyne-Wear derby.
In almost any other high-profile profession, the idea that a man under investigation for grooming and statutory rape could continue to do his job unfettered is unthinkable. Even putting aside the fact that professional sports are decidedly not like any other professions, it is still remarkable that Sunderland continued to feature Johnson after he was accused of such a heinous crime. It’s hard to not to draw the simplest connection and conclude that Sunderland would rather associate itself with a man who — allegedly, at the time — endangered a child, than endanger its own odds of staying in the Premier League.
Today, Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of sexual activity with a child and and one count of grooming.
Now that its continued employment of a confessed sexual predator is back in the public eye, Sunderland will facing mounting pressure to release Johnson. The winger has continued to be ever-present in the matchday squad when fit, and has started nearly half of Sunderland’s league games. With Sunderland yet again in the relegation places, the Black Cats would no doubt continue to rely on his contribution had it not been for today’s admission of guilt. In fact, they may still do so, since there’s little point in trying to take a moral stance now. Even if Sunderland does decide to distance itself from the kiddie-diddler, the horse of public opinion has long since bolted the stable. No matter what action it takes now, Sunderland has already shown that it doesn’t give a tuppenny fuck about sexual crimes against children.
If all goes at it should, next season Adam Johnson will be listening to coverage of Sunderland’s games in the Championship from his radio in prison.
In other news
Abou Diaby is still only 26?!