Very quick PSA for everyone to learn from Jim McElwain.
Much like the way women are afraid to report sexual harassment or go to police when sexually assaulted, men are afraid to report when their lives are at risk too. Men are afraid of being judged for not being “Man Enough” to take on their own problems. It’s not toxic masculinity (this is a nonsensical concept), it’s toxic insecurity in caring far too much of what others may think of them. Men need to report death threats, sexual assaults on them and domestic violence against them to police. Internalizing these horrible criminal events or being a vigilante like a “tough guy” does not solve anything. (Even in cases of lawful self-defense, the NRA instructs people to call 9-1-1.) Reporting a criminal act against you does not make you any less of a man.
University of Florida Football Head Coach Jim McElwain’s account of death threats whether they are real, perceived or fake should be an opportunity to remind men that it is acceptable to report criminal activity. Criminal acts are more complex than ever with technology playing an even greater role in our lives. It is bizarre that people who are supportive of law enforcement will not seek out law enforcement when it is necessary due to the shame involved.
Death threats are to be taken seriously and if they are done through any sort of a digital method can be traced back to the individual’s IP address, device and phone number. Student-athletes get death threats and angry calls from opposing fans, they are usually profanity-laced and filled with racial slurs. It’s not a problem that is from the 1980s or 1990s, it is happening NOW. Male student-athletes need to step up and report these incidents to their University Police or to the local jurisdiction Police Departments first and DIRECTLY. Death threats are to be taken seriously and when fans blow up the phones of student-athletes and coaches because they happen to get the number, it should not result in a reaction of laughter or a celebratory phone gesture from the victim. Rather, death threats should result in investigations and prosecutions. The more it is normalized, the more it happens. Threatening to kill someone is not funny and not any sane person’s idea of a good time.
Too often, male student-athletes and coaches choose to internalize all affairs and not wish to involve local law enforcement. Student-athletes and coaches should not feel the need to clear their criminal reporting through a University’s Athletic Department staff member. They should go directly to a Police Station ready to get a report filled out to start the process of getting justice.
It also has to be asked, but why is it when a student-athlete acknowledges receiving death threats and laughs it off… it is unquestioned and nobody asks if local authorities were involved? Did Tim Tebow, Cade Foster and others even bother trying to get law enforcement involved when they faced death threats? Death threats should not be “part of the territory” and they should be taken seriously. Media gloss over it far too frequently and the arrests of those who are alleged to have made death threats do not get reported. But yet, Jim McElwain could be the first college sports figure to be asked if he has informed the local authorities after stating that there have been death threats directed toward members of his team? Also, why are the student-athletes telling him and his staff about the threats first before going to the UF Police or Gainesville Police Department? This is an intensely personal matter and it has nothing to do with the team… the University of Florida does not own the student-athletes.
If Florida Football was undefeated would the media be questioning McElwain like this? The media wants clicks and views, this is a story that can last an entire week for these local publications that are getting destroyed in the digital age. It’s about money, coaching controversies and new coaching searches are MONEY for the media. The media likes turnover and controversy because it is their Christmas in a monetary sense. Ad rates are falling, new voices are disrupting things and the co-founder of The Athletic wants to deplete local newspapers of their talent altogether. (Fletcher Page appears to be in-line for a big pay raise.)
Everyone plays a part in diminishing the acts of some truly terrible people, but men need to step up and acknowledge that they cannot solve every problem on their own. Men getting police involved in cases where they cannot take a reasonable action on their own when a crime is committed is a BIG STEP to getting justice and deterring future acts. Mothers and Fathers use this McElwain story as an opportunity to teach your sons that it is not wimpy to report crimes against them to the police.