Column: Derrick Rose Exonerated In Court, But Nowhere Else
In the aftermath of Derrick Rose’s civil trial for charges of gang rape, it’s time to take a hard look at the fallout, our expectations for our favorite sports stars, and rape culture in society.
Derrick Rose‘s recent civil trial for gang rape is not a subject people will want to talk about, even in a society where political correctness has become the new standard.
Whenever a famous sports figure or celebrity face charges for domestic violence, driving under the influence, or in this case, rape, it’s much easier to bury one’s head in the sand. It’s more convenient to hope the accusations are unequivocally false and ignore the disturbing details until the moment of relief validates our skepticism.
It’s only natural; we want to continue rooting for our favorite sports stars without having to wonder in the back of our minds if they irreparably ruined someone else’s life.
On Wednesday, that moment of vindication came for plenty of D-Rose fans when the former MVP and current New York Knicks point guard and his two friends were found not liable for civil charges of trespassing, battery and sexual battery (i.e. rape). And yet, even in the aftermath of the verdict, it was hard to feel good about any of it.
Early on the morning of Aug. 27, 2013, the former Chicago Bulls superstar and two of his friends went to the apartment of the alleged victim, who wished to remain anonymous as Jane Doe. There, the four participated in group sex.
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Doe, who had been in a non-exclusive relationship with Rose in the past, reached out to the star point guard via text on the night of Aug. 26 and was invited to a party at Rose’s house. She attended the party and left around midnight.
The two sides disagreed on whether she was drugged at the party, whether she had sex with Rose and his two friends there, whether she let the three men into her apartment later on and whether she consented to the group sex.
With Rose cleared by the court, there’s no legal basis for anyone to accuse him of being guilty. It’s the tone-deaf, misogynistic and outright ignorant nature of Rose’s testimony throughout the trial, however, that provides the most disturbing takeaways and serves as the reason his exoneration won’t extend to the rest of us.
The heart-wrenching account from Doe herself? Sure, you could write off all the gruesome details as a well-practiced sob story meant to sway a jury toward a $21.5 million verdict.
The fact that she pursued a civil trial rather than a criminal trial in an effort to keep her identity anonymous and spare herself public scrutiny? Yeah, you could chalk that up to chasing money in a civil case over actual criminal charges.
Rose taking the used condom from the scene of their sexual encounter? Maybe he was taught to do that as an NBA player to prevent unwanted pregnancies from malevolent women hoping score a future pay day in the form of child support.
Keeping in mind the definition of misogyny is "a dislike or distrust of women" and this was Rose during the trial. This is what I'm saying. pic.twitter.com/02K7df7Ucg
— Derek James (@DerekJamesNBA) October 19, 2016
But Rose’s lawyers — and Rose himself, during his own testimony — went above and beyond what many would deem acceptable behavior in their defense, even for an innocent man.
It was the typical sort of accusation you see in any rape case now; namely, diving into the plaintiff’s sexual history to call her character into question.
Rose’s attorneys used sexually suggestive pictures on her Instagram as their argument for trying to take the Jane Doe pseudonym away from the plaintiff, which the judge rejected. They slut-shamed her for the existence of a sex belt, which actually didn’t exist, since she lied to Rose about it to try and pique his interest and rekindle their friendship.
It was a smear campaign, and an effective one in the way it used TMZ to produce a slew of nasty headlines like “You’re No Prude, You Hooked Up With Nick Young,” or the one below, to damage the plaintiff’s credibility and reputation.
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 1, 2016
The biggest alarm bells, however, came when Rose admitted he didn’t know what “consent” meant. You know, consent — the whole dividing line between having sex and being raped.
In a gang rape trial, not knowing what consent means is not necessarily an admission of guilt, but it’s a pretty big red flag, and the issue became an even bigger deal when hordes of Rose supporters on social media slowly but surely revealed they had no idea what it meant either.
This isn’t about being able to provide a definition from Webster’s Dictionary, nor is it about Rose’s penchant for saying things that come off as stupid; in a situation of that magnitude, it was truly alarming to realize that the concept of consent remains elusive in 2016 — no matter his guilt or innocence.
Rose’s testimony revealed a disturbing mindset that soon became a recurring opinion on Twitter: It was 3 in the morning, so she was pretty much asking for it.
Or, alternatively: She had texted him lewd things before, and she had sex with him before, isn’t that the same thing as consent?
In the words of Rose himself:
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 1, 2016
That “We men” bit, along with Rose’s belief that she was drunk and not unconscious — as Doe claims — overlooks what consent really means.
Being too drunk or otherwise incapacitated is not consent. Suggestive pictures or texts are not consent. Consent given one day does not mean perpetual entitlement.
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Whether or not the plaintiff provided consent that morning, we’ll never know. Only the four people in that room will ever know the truth.
It’s difficult to prove whether or not there was consent in a court of law, though it’s worth noting the plaintiff didn’t answer multiple texts and calls from Rose when he and his friends arrived at her apartment, that she repeatedly asked him to come alone, and that their prior relationship had ended after she refused to engage in group sex as per his request.
The reason jurors found Rose innocent was there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, even in a case where the jury only had to believe that her version of events was 51 percent more likely to be true than Rose’s version.
The lack of a rape kit and what some jurors felt were crocodile tears led them to rule in Rose’s favor. You know, the same jurors who were taking picture with Rose after the trial.
— Joel Rubin (@joelrubin) October 19, 2016
For the record, I was one of Rose’s staunchest defenders during his time with the Bulls. Like many NBA fans, I was awestruck by his MVP season, hopeful that he could challenge LeBron James‘ reign to provide an exciting new rivalry in the East, and optimistic that he could overcome his injuries one day to recapture superstar form.
I defended him when people said he’d never be the same, deflected his asinine comments in 2015 about already looking ahead to his free agency in 2017, and lashed out at critics calling him soft after his comments about thinking about life after basketball.
While I acknowledged he wasn’t the most eloquent of speakers or the most cognizant of how his words were interpreted, it always seemed possible that he was just misunderstood. That his words were misconstrued, that his injuries somehow made him deserving of pity, and that anyone who slandered him for admittedly tone-deaf comments didn’t understand all he’d been through.
After this trial, Rose will find no such sympathy. Regardless of what the court found, what people believe to be true of that night, or whatever he accomplishes with the Knicks this season, Rose’s comments during his civil trial took ignorance to a whole new level that cannot — and should not — be defended, deflected or ignored.
Adidas on "not liable" Derrick Rose decision: "Our partnership with Derrick remains unchanged."
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 19, 2016
As is the case in any rape trial, taking a stance before knowing all the alleged facts and testimonies is a dangerous, ignorant path.
On the one hand, those assuming Rose was a rapist because of the unsettling details of the trial followed a line of thinking that would undermine the entire U.S. justice system if put into practice. In this nation, one is still innocent until proven guilty.
On the other hand, those assuming Doe was a gold digger just because Rose is rich and wears the colors of their favorite team were making a tragic oversight in the event the alleged victim actually was raped.
No matter the verdict, no matter the truth to the allegations, seeing the judge himself wishing Rose a happy season — except for when the Knicks play the Los Angeles Lakers, HARDY-HAR-HAR — was unsettling and inappropriate.
Like Rose’s testimony, like his candor throughout the process and like the mere existence of these allegations in the first place, it just felt sickening, regardless of his guilt or innocence in a court of law.
Hopefully justice really was served on Wednesday. Perhaps Doe was just looking for a $21.5 million pay day and Rose did not deserve to have his name dragged through the mud. We’ll never know what really happened that night, and that might have been true no matter the jury’s verdict.
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But the manner with which Rose carried himself throughout this whole ordeal, the insensitivity to such a serious and sensitive subject, and the ensuing triumph from Rose fans who took comfort in their perception of Doe as nothing more than a lying, money-grubbing slut said a lot about how far our society has to go in order to understand rape culture.
Rose isn’t the first sports star to face such charges, and he won’t be the last. Guys like Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger were never convicted, but their fans have been in an eternal state of discomfort ever since, trying to reconcile the joy these champions bring through their achievements in sports with the horrible things they were accused of doing. Rose will be yet another entry in an ongoing, frustratingly fruitless discussion about rape, even if he didn’t have to reach a settlement with the plaintiff as they did.
In a country where a man taking a knee during the national anthem at football games to protest racial inequality is as despised as a man who talks about grabbing a woman “by the p***y” and still becomes one of our two presidential candidates, maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Maybe this reporter shouldn’t be surprised to be called a p***y, told to shut the f**k up , informed that Rose was “keeping it 100” or be accused of being outright racist on Twitter after simply stating the obvious: The verdict of his civil trial brought exoneration from the court, but not from any unbiased person paying attention to its proceedings.
That’s not to say Rose is guilty or that he dodged justice. He was found innocent by the jury, and perhaps that’s really the long and short of it. We’ll never know, and criminal charges are unlikely to come after this verdict. Doe has options in the form of an appeal, but for the time being, Rose is off the hook.
Is the Derrick Rose case over? Not quite yet. Here is my quick breakdown of Jane Doe's appeal options: https://t.co/UILpsAseAS
— Dan Werly (@WerlySportsLaw) October 19, 2016
Even if he truly is innocent of all the charges, however, his “We men” comments, his lack of knowledge about what consent means and the outright refusal of so many people to even consider the other, uglier possibility prove just how far we have to go as far in order to understand and abolish rape culture.
In the meantime, we’ll do what we always do in these situations: Believe that justice really was served despite the whole thing making us sick to our stomachs, hope that someone’s life wasn’t just ruined, and wait with clenched teeth until the next time we’re forced to justify our sports fandom all over again.
After all, it’s a lot easier to stop wondering about an anonymous accuser we’ll probably never hear from again when we can just “stick to sports” and watch Derrick Rose put a round ball through a metal hoop every night.
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