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Harvard Men’s Soccer Team Benched After ‘Locker Room Talk’ Scandal

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The phrase “boys will be boys” just does not fly anymore, especially not with Ivy League school Harvard University. With two more regular season games scheduled, Harvard’s male soccer team was forced to forfeit after a lewd tradition was uncovered.

Apparently, ranking freshman women’s players’ physical appearance and sex appeal has been a long-standing custom of the men’s team – numeric scores and all. According to the Harvard Crimson, the “scouting report” (yes, that is what the players called it) included offensive descriptions of the girls. They even assigned each of them a hypothetical sexual position. One such document, from 2012, was discovered this year, launching an investigation and causing the cancellation of the season.

“Harvard Athletics has zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” Harvard Athletics Director Robert Scalise said.

The reports were not just isolated to 2012. They continued up until this year, 2016, and it was found to be a widespread practice amongst the team. When players were not immediately honest about their involvement, games were cancelled, participation in the NCAA Tournament was declined, and the opportunity to achieve an Ivy League championship was diminished.

“Harvard Athletics will partner with the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and other Harvard College resources, to educate all student-athletes on ‘the seriousness of these behaviors and the general standard of respect and conduct that is expected,’” CNN reported on a statement from Harvard President Drew Faust

Yet, some people are outraged on part of the men’s team. Many took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their opinions, saying that the punishment was too harsh. They could not believe “locker room talk” had suspended the entire team. One such tweet, from @bdp5150 reads, “Total over reaction! They are boys, and boys will talk about girls. Been happening for thousands of years. Get over yourselves.” Another, from @the_ chris_reyes reads, “The whole men’s Harvard Soccer team situation is dumb. Especially bc [because] there’s always gonna be locker room talk. Guys are gonna be guys.”

“Locker room talk”: a term that tries to normalize sexist behavior, should not be seen as normal, and it certainly should not be tolerated. This message needed to be sent eventually, and now that it has been, half of the people weighing in on this issue are appalled that lewd comments trump sports. I fail to understand how any controversy over the suspension exists, especially with the team fully understanding the consequences of their actions.

“These scouting reports, an inexcusable manifestation of sexism and misogyny on our part persisted … and now we must hold ourselves accountable for them,” a letter published by the Harvard Crimson, and written by the men’s team said. They apologize for the harm their “words and actions have caused women everywhere, and especially our close friends on the Women’s Soccer team,” and state that they are ashamed and that “no woman deserves to be treated in this manner.”

Nobody has any right to make girls feel this type of disrespect and discomfort. Several of the women from the 2012 report came forward, saying how they were upset but “not surprised” by these findings in a paper called “Stronger Together” that was published in the Harvard Crimson. These women are Kelsey Clayman, Brooke Dickens, Alika Keene, Emily Mosbacher, Lauren Varelaa and Haley Washburn.

“The sad reality is that we have come to expect this kind of behavior from so many men, that it is so ‘normal’ to us we often decide it is not worth our time or effort to dwell on,” the women wrote. “We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this.”

And I too feel helpless. There are no excuses for this type of behavior, and Harvard realizes this. We can only hope that, one day, the rest of the world will too. I support Harvard in their decision to cancel the rest of the season.

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