How nice it would have been if the whole sorry saga of Ched Evans had been left in 2014. Unfortunately, Oldham Athletic are the latest team to suggest that they are considering signing the convicted rapist to play for their side, here on the other side of December 31st. If you - like me – think this is a truly terrible, awful decision, then you will be used to hearing the same arguments put forward in his defence, so here is a handy rebuttal guide.
Ched has served his time
Well actually, he hasn’t. Evans has been released under licence, but his sentence isn’t finished yet, it’s only the custodial aspect that is over. He could return to prison at any time if he breaches his probation conditions. He’s not allowed to go abroad, for example. He is far from being a ‘free man’.
He didn’t even do it!
A jury disagreed. The facts remain that on 30 May 2011, Evans got a text from his friend, Clayton McDonald, to say that he had “got a bird”, neglecting to mention he had “got” her at 3am in the queue for pizza when she was so drunk that she fell over and twisted her ankle. In fact, she had drunk so much that she doesn’t remember how she got to the hotel room where she eventually woke up, her clothes scattered around the floor. But this isn’t about her actions: it’s about Evans. And he does remember. He remembers – and freely admits - that he got a taxi to the Premier Inn where McDonald had taken the 19 year-old, let himself into the room and watched his friend have sex with her. He then “got involved”, while his brother and another friend watched through a window and tried to film it on their phones. Evans left later that morning via a fire escape.
Evans doesn’t think this sequence of events makes him a rapist. But unfortunately for him the jury did, and it is from that foundation that all our conversations about Evans and his professional career should start. The Football Association are not able to overturn or ignore the decisions of our legal system. Should the decision be overturned in court, then it's a discussion that can be reopened.
He has been punished, so now he should be rehabilitated
We need to be very clear what we mean by rehabilitation. Because rehabilitation does not mean a return to ordinary life, as if nothing has happened. Rehabilitation for Evans is not analogous with playing professional football. He could be rehabilitated without ever touching a ball again.
Rehabilitation is about reintegration into society, with the fundamental basis of this a reasonable understanding that the individual will not reoffend. And this is where we run into some problems, because Evans does not accept that he did anything wrong. In fact, he has repeatedly refused to accept even a modicum of guilt for anything other than cheating on his girlfriend. If he does not understand that what he did was rape, can we be sure he will not reoffend? He has shown no grasp of the issues surrounding consent, so can we really say he is rehabilitated?
But saying sorry isn’t part of his punishment
No, but acceptance and a willingness to change is part of rehabilitation, which is surely the issue at question here.
The stories that defined 2014
The stories that defined 2014
Sheffield United withdraws its offer to its former player, the convicted rapist Ched Evans, to use its training facilities, following a public backlash against the club
The Apple Watch launches, in the hope that 'wearable technology' will become commonplace
In the European Parliament elections, Ukip comes top with 26.5 per cent, Labour polls 24.5 per cent and the Conservatives 23 per cent. The result presages a year of electoral success for Ukip: the party wins two by-elections, at Clacton in Essex and Rochester in Kent
Bearded drag act Conchita Wurst wins the Eurovision Song Contest for Austria with her song ‘Rise Like a Phoenix
The American actor George Clooney marries the British human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin in Venice
A user posts on an online bulletin board a list of celebrities of whom he or she claims to have explicit photographs and videos. The list comprises mostly female actors, singers and other public figures, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and Kirsten Dunst. Soon after, images of Lawrence and others begin circulating on file-sharing sites. The hacker claims to have taken the images from Apple’s iCloud back-up service
The Royal Family announces that Kate Middleton and her husband Prince William, Duke of Cambridge are expecting a second child
Chris Kennedy, a golfer from Florida, uploads a video of himself pouring a bucket of icy water over his head, and nominates three friends to undergo the challenge ‘or donate $100 to the ALS Association’. Within weeks, more than $50m is pledged to various motor neurone disease charities, as the craze to emulate Kennedy’s feat goes viral. Pictured here, Kylie Minogue gives herself a soaking.
Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of ‘The Sun’ and chief executive of News International, is cleared of all charges related to phone hacking. Her former lover, ex-colleague and one-time Conservative Party director of communications, Andy Coulson, however, is found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones
After a 10-year, four billionmile journey, the European Space Agency probe Philae landed on comet 67P. Amid excitement about the apparent success of the mission, attention turns to a British scientist, Dr Matt Taylor, involved in the mission – in particular, his striking shirt depicting scantily clad cartoon women
The Scottish referendum returns a conclusive decision in favour of continuing the union with the United Kingdom: the Yes vote, led by Alex Salmond, polls 45 cent, the No vote 55 per cent
March, April, October…
First, Jeremy Clarkson uses the term 'slope' on 'Top Gear' in a context that some believe is racist; a few days later, it emerges that Clarkson, in footage not broadcast, has used the word 'nigger' in a nursery rhyme. Finally, in October, he and his 'Top Gear' film crew flee an angry crowd in Argentina who believe a licence plate (H982 FKL) on a car used in filming is a reference to the Falklands
An inquest jury rules that Mark Duggan, whose death in Tottenham, north London, sparked the August 2011 riots, was lawfully killed by police
So are we saying that his life is ruined because of one mistake?
Are we really suggesting that simply not being able to play professional football will destroy his life? The woman he attacked has just had to move and change her identity for the fifth time, after his supporters tracked her down and abused her. They even have a website vilifying her. Evans has yet to condemn their actions. Perhaps when talking about lives that have been ruined, we should first talk about his victim, and learn from his response to her ruined life.
Is he never allowed to work again?
Of course he is! But a rape conviction automatically excludes you from a vast number of professions. A convicted rapist couldn’t be a teacher, doctor or police officer, for example. In fact, there can be few companies that would allow you to walk straight back into your job after leaving jail. Should football be so different?
But a footballer isn’t in charge of children or vulnerable people, he is not a threat. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to play?
Not a threat directly, no, but footballers are idolised, and – rightly or wrongly – presented as role models. Regardless of how he has acted since his release, allowing him to walk back on to a pitch to cheers makes a mockery of what he has done. Do we really want his face decorating the bedroom walls of young fans?
Other sports stars have committed crimes in the past and been allowed to return. Why not Evans?
A wrong decision in the past shouldn’t stop the right thing being done now. This case should be judged on its own merits. And it is clear that public opinion now is overwhelmingly against Evans being allowed to return to professional football, with a petition to Oldham Athletic against the signing gaining 24,000 signatures so far, making it one of the fastest growing ever.
Perhaps it’s because he has shown no remorse, or because he has taken no responsibility for the despicable actions of his fans, or maybe it's because he is so unwilling to learn from what he has done. But it could also be that public opinion is finally starting to recognise rape as the most appalling of crimes which deserves to be met with nothing but disgust and contempt for the rapist, rather than a new contract and football shirt.
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