You have read the title. If you’ve been following football even remotely, you know what this is about.
“Disgusted” does not begin to define how I have been feeling over the past 48 hours, most of which I have spent wondering if I am in any position to make any kind of statement on this matter. People more eloquent than me have used their words to much greater effect than I can muster, but I’d be remiss in my responsibility as a football writer—and, as a man—if I did not address this.
As men, we’re already too late to realise that silence is no longer an option. Every time such a matter rears its head, most of us choose to cry the “not all men” rhetoric, mount on our high horses believing we’re not one of the bad ones, and then return to our houses where our silence deafens the loud reality on the outside.
If your hand is already reaching out for the “but not all men” button, allow me to reiterate: this is not about you, or me. This is not a targeted attack; this is about us, together, as a collective — what we can do as men when silence is no longer an option.
There is only so much I can imagine as to what Mason Greenwood’s ex-partner* must have gone through all this time, and what she must be going through now that it’s all out in the open. This is, after all, not a society that is incredibly supportive of women who muster up the courage to speak up against abuses and assaults. Even when people are not putting the blame on her, many are choosing to focus on how “Mason has destroyed his career” over the fact that a woman has been traumatised for probably way longer than any of us know. Football is absolutely irrelevant here, and one can only hope that the woman in question gets all the support she needs right now and then some.
As far as Mason Greenwood is concerned, we have to let the legal system take its due course. In the meantime, Nike has suspended its deal with him, and Manchester United have suspended him under further notice — a period during which he is likely to still be paid. Could United have done more? Possibly. The tweets celebrating Bruno Fernandes’s two years at the club and Dimitar Berbatov’s birthday certainly did not contrast well with the sheer silence on the other end of the spectrum. They have all but initiated Step 1, which is enforced by organisations with a global brand every time a big-name personality ends up threatening their image, which is what matters at the end of the day, anyway. While they have denied him legal support on their end, they still remain the club who, months ago, had Ryan Giggs in the directors’ box at Old Trafford as he witnessed Cristiano Ronaldo’s glorious return to England; I didn’t, therefore, expect much proactivity from the Red Devils.
It’s not just about United, though, or any other club, for that matter. We would be here all day if we were to start talking about similar issues that have surfaced over the past year alone: Benjamin Mendy continued playing for Manchester City while he was being investigated as an alleged rapist; Jérôme Boateng continues playing football at the highest level of the game; the NWSL has been, for the lack of a better phrase, all over the place. These are all but three examples to make a point — a point that no longer should be alien to us, because it is certainly not alien to women.
The world of sports is a reflection of society, and our society is rooted in male-dominant constructs. It is not a surprise, therefore, that men are protected as long as is physically possible, which is most of the time. Any and all need-to-be-discussed matters are swept under the carpet in favour of performative projects, with all parties ready to wash themselves of any blame and keen to avoid the reality that societal changes do not happen with easy, convenient conversations.
This is where we have to begin. We need to realise that if we are to genuinely make even an ounce of change, then the conversations with the women in our lives need to become a lot more uncomfortable in order for us to understand the dichotomy between the lives we live they do: within the same spaces, and yet a million miles apart.
We need to allow ourselves to look at the matters we never even need to give a thought to. We need to understand what consent means, and how being in a relationship/marriage doesn’t legitimise the lack of it. We need to listen to women, and help them feel that they are not alone and supportless in fighting a system that is set by default to blame them first, the assailant after.
These are little steps, obviously, but that is how change begins. We start at an individual level, and try to do better and learn more everyday.
The time for us to become an active contributor in this discourse was yesterday; the time for us to start is now.
*The name of Greenwood’s ex-partner has been left out of this article out of respect for her right to anonymity.