Treon Harris, Sexual Assault, and the Idolization of College Athletes

This morning, the University of Florida announced the suspension of freshman quarterback Treon Harris, after accusations that he “sexually assault(ed) a female student early Sunday morning in a residence hall on the UF campus.” Now, I’m no news reporter, and I don’t presume to know exactly what went down in this situation – but I have an educated guess: Treon Harris gets in the game at rival Tennessee down 9-0. Two scoring drives later, he is the hero who helped Florida come back and win the game and who, in all likelihood, starts at quarterback for the rest of the season. So what happens? He gets text after text, reads tweet after tweet and sees article after article about what a hero he is. When he arrives back in Gainesville, he celebrates, because that’s what college athletes do after big wins. But the celebration goes too far, and before long, he is imposing his will, and his body, on a young female student. What made Treon Harris think he had the right to do this? What makes anyone think they have the right to do this?
I don’t know the answer to that question, and I know that correlation does not always equal causation. However, I do know a few things: I know that we spend a whole lot of time applauding, praising, dare I say worshipping college (and professional) athletes. I also know that, for most people, being put on a pedestal, receiving unending praise and applause, and being treated like a superstar, leads to pride. It leads to a sense that we have earned our way above the social constructs and morality of the society in which we live. Finally, I know that a whole lot of athletes, movie stars, musicians, and others who receive the type of praise that really only belongs to one person, namely, Jesus, are charged of committing heinous crimes like this all the time. Does that mean that every athlete thinks he is above the law? No. Does it mean that only famous people commit sexual assault? Of course not. Does it mean that I am completely innocent of putting athletes and athletic teams on pedestals and idolizing them? Unfortunately, no. Just look at my tweets from late Saturday night.
What does it mean, then? Like I said, though it may not be a cause-and-effect relationship, there is certainly some sort of relationship between idolizing people and those people committing acts such as the one Treon Harris allegedly committed. I’m not saying we can completely stop this, but I am saying it should at least cause us to reconsider the way we treat our favorite athletes, musicians, movie stars, and people in general. Remember that there is only One deserving of your worship. While we certainly can and should be quick to affirm people in their God-given talents, we must praise the Giver of those talents before we praise the recipient.

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