Thin Ice

Hashtag Rape Apologists Defend NHL Star

A swath of Twitter users, viral Facebook posts, and bar owners with promotions on the line rushed to the defense of NHL star Patrick Kane after he was accused of rape in this last week.

David Banks/USA Today Sports/Reuters

Here’s what we do know. On Sunday, Aug. 2, the Hamburg Police in South Buffalo, New York, visited the home of the Chicago Blackhawks star forward, Patrick Kane, as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault. We know that the woman in question did visit the hospital and a rape kit was administered, and, according to The Buffalo News, she had “bite marks on her shoulders and a scratch on her leg after the alleged attack.”

Here’s what we don’t know: everything else. To date, Kane has not been charged with anything. The NHL and the Blackhawks have issued a few bland, “We are aware of the investigation...” non-statements, and both the police and all the attorneys involved have predictably clammed up

But what else we know is what will occur whenever a high-profile athlete is suspected of committing sexual assault: a weird, creepy subculture with people whose first, guttural response is to de facto support an alleged rapist comes bubbling to the surface.

It’s what happened with Mike Tyson, Ben Roethlisberger, Kobe Bryant, Mark Sanchez, and definitely Jameis Winston.

In the very same article that revealed the alleged victim’s injuries, The Buffalo News allowed Mark Croce, the owner of the bar where Kane and the woman purportedly met to unleash a stream of fairly vile, totally irrelevant victim-blaming and slut-shaming, painting a picture of an inebriated trollop that was, you know, totally asking for it.

“It was almost like she stationed herself near him and was keeping other women away from him,” Croce said. “I noticed it and kind of laughed about it.”

He further outlined how she was “hanging all over” Kane and “being very forward, very flirtatious with him.”

Never mind, as Alan Bedenko outlines here, Croce’s statement that “I’ve got no skin in this game. I am only telling you what I observed,” is pure bunk, given that Kane had previously intended to bring the Stanley Cup to Croce’s establishment this past weekend.

Plus, Croce certainly does have a vested interest in portraying his bar as anything other than a breeding ground for alleged sexual predators. Furthermore, if Kane is charged, there's the chance Croce, by dint of continuing to serve him, could be implicated in a civil suit.

What Croce’s slinging here bears a striking resemblance to some of the viler corners of social media. To the surprise of absolutely no one, an #ISupport88 hashtag has crawled out of Twitter’s gutter, filled with knuckle-dragging, misogynistic "She's a gold-digger! Women lie about rape all the time!" nonsense and much, much worse.

If you head over to Facebook—and only if you can stomach it—scroll through the comments on this posting by the Chicago site Sports Mockery, which ran a “We’re Just Asking” bit of clickbait, Is It Possible Patrick Kane Was Targeted? Or Is It Wrong To Ask The Question?

There you’ll find dedicated horde of smugly dumb “experts” screeching like the worst of Men’s Rights Activists that when it comes to rape, false accusations abound and most women are lying, conniving harlots dead set on turning their personal lives asunder in hopes of a payoff from a rich, famous ballplayer.

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It’s sad that this needs to be said (again) but what transpired when Kane and the alleged victim met, if she was soused or not, and if she was flirting with Kane or not, has nothing to do with whether a sexual assault occurred.

And no, there is zero evidence that athletes are more likely to be falsely accused than any other demographic. To imply that the night could not have taken a sharp turn for the worse and that consent could not be lost over time is straight out of the standard-brand smear campaign that all accusers inevitably face, and part and parcel of the reason that 68 percent of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported and 98 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail.

To be clear, we have no idea what occurred that night. Kane without a doubt deserves the presumption of innocence, especially considering he hasn’t even been charged with a crime. But if you want to talk about behavior that is relevant here, we can and should take a look at Patrick Kane’s actual history—one that includes an assault charge (which was subsequently pled down to disorderly conduct) or these firsthand accounts of a drunken weekend in Madison, Wisconsin.

There’s a litany of (totally unverifiable) stories that were submitted to Deadspin recounting Kane’s lost weekend. Allegedly, “Kane was pulling down girls sun glasses and then going ‘ehhh, not good enough’ just straight being a douche right to their faces. Pretty strong move if you can pull it off,” [sic] and, “he relentlessly began hitting on a girl who wanted nothing to do with him—his response to this denial, attempt to choke her, which is what ultimately got him booted.”

During that bender, Kane’s crew was all seen wearing custom-made shirts emblazoned with “CINCO por DOS es igual a DIEZ” (five times two equals ten) on the front and a shirtless photo of Kane with two women on the back. Get it?

Sure, stacking prospective women on a 10-point scale is something that lots of bro-tastic twentysomethings do.

Most of them, however, aren’t incredibly famous athletes, possibly the best and most well known U.S.-born pro hockey player—someone that might be expected to exercise slightly better judgment. Then again, we’re talking about an individual with such a noted history of public inebriation that Deadspin has a dedicated “Patrick Kane Drunk” tag.

This knee-jerk instinct to impugn the victim isn’t limited to the world of sports, to be sure. But the venom that’s being unleashed is fueled in part by fandom. No one wants to think that the men and women we spend countless hours rooting for and, yes, to a certain degree, idolizing are capable of these kinds of monstrous acts. Hell, it’s hard enough to get people to accept that nearly 20 percent of women will experience some form of rape in their lifetimes.

More to the point, it’s assumed that Patrick Kane—or celebrity or athlete—isn’t lacking for sexual partners. But the next sentence in this thuddingly wrong train of thought is that since many women and men would cut off a limb in exchange for a one-night stand with the object of their desire and worship, someone accusing a jock must either have concocted a devious extortion scheme or be a foolish little girl, so ashamed of her promiscuity that she ran to the cops. It’s deeply sexist and a fundamental misconception of what rape is and why it exists.

It’s not about sexual attraction. It’s about power and it’s about violence.