TW – Sexual assault, Rape, Domestic Abuse, Violence.
‘But what about his career…’
‘His career has just been thrown down the drain…’
‘What a waste of talent…’
These phrases flooded social media in the aftermath of allegations made against British Premier League Footballer Mason Greenwood. Pictures, videos, and voice-notes surfaced online from Greenwood’s girlfriend, showing physical injuries and recordings of conversations with her being pressured into having sex. The evidence is harrowing and extremely hard to see and listen to. However, given the nature of the parties’ lives, given their celebrity status as a top-tier footballer and partner, this story of abuse has caught the interest of thousands around the country.
As an up-and-coming football star, Greenwood naturally has a large following in mainstream media. The news quickly circulated and was trending within minutes of the story breaking. Social media was flooded with images of abuse, heart-breaking stories, and a great deal of support for Greenwood’s victim and others in her position. However, there was also a lot of young, mainly male, football fans who showed support for Greenwood, promoting the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ argument. Some saw the evidence as insufficient, lacking certainty and, for some, even fake. This, unfortunately, shows the harsh reality plaguing abuse victims and feeds into the narrative that abuse victims are not to be believed.
A story such as this needs to be treated with particular care considering the fanbase that Greenwood has. Professional footballers are typically the idols of millions of young boys around the world, meaning their influence is broad. As a particularly talented young player, Greenwood’s name was commonplace in the football world, especially so on twitter. Some hardcore fans are finding it hard to see the harsh reality of the situation, and if they can’t believe something that has photo evidence plastered all over the news, how can we expect these people to show up for their female family members and friends should they experience anything similar? Given the impact that this story could have on young boys’ perceptions and aspirations, this issue must be taken extremely seriously.
As tends to happen in cases such as these, many comments flooded in, starting with some iteration of ‘Imagine this was your daughter/sister/girlfriend/etc….’ While, for many (it unfortunately seems) this can make stories hit more personally, this does feed into the narrative that many men only hold respect for the women that they directly know. In essence, it promotes the narrative that female abuse ought only to be sad to the people who directly knew the victim. Society needs to emphasise that all women deserve respect and not to be abused.
It is evident that the football industry and criminal justice system could be doing more to prevent these incidents. Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy is currently facing trial over rape allegations, while Scottish Raith Rovers recently faced scandal for signing David Goodwillie, a man who was ordered to pay damages to a woman he was found to have raped in 2017. No industry should be allowing individuals such as these to be considered as A-list idols, let alone an industry with such a large fanbase as Premier League football.
While stories such as these need to be shared so that these individuals can be held to account, it should not result in some of the sickening commentary that this story has produced. Some have suggested that this may be the start of football’s #MeToo Movement. However, there is room for a lot more proactivity and protection in these cases before any real improvements could be said to have occurred.
I'm a second year Law student at UEA in Norwich. I currently work as a Media Ambassador for my university and also spend a lot of time working as a committee member for the UEA Feminist Book Club. I have keen interests in Criminal Law as well as Public Law, especially after completing some work experience with my local public law firm. I am super excited to join the Fem Legal team, both to be able to write about such important topics but also to learn from the team and our readers. In my spare time I love to read and write about almost anything, as well as watching anything Marvel or Formula 1 related!