Trump’s crude talk misrepresents athletes, locker room settings
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With the sports world a frenzied cluster of World Series baseball, all levels of football and the dawn of a new basketball season, something else has managed to take the stage, front and center. The volatile, explosive presidential election cycle has managed to steal headlines and television ratings across the nation as the two candidates continually lash out at one another on Twitter and otherwise.
However, there has been one of the many fiascos that has stirred up more talk in sports than the rest. After being caught on tape saying horrifically vulgar comments about women and boasting about sexual assault, Republican nominee Donald Trump attempted to save face by simply regarding the comments as “locker room talk.”
But are his comments warranted as just something guys do? Is this even acceptable in a true “locker room setting”?
“In all my years being in a locker room setting, ever since seventh grade, I’ve never heard anything like that at all, anything close to what he said,” Coppell senior football player Skyler Seidman said. “In the locker room, we don’t really talk about that kind of stuff. We talk about the team and things that are going on in our lives rather than talking about other people.”
In the Coppell football program, the high standard of character and respect is set from the coaches from the start.
“It starts at the top, and there’s been a certain standard that we set in [the coach’s] office,” football coach Mike DeWitt. “You’re never going to hear profanity or actually any kind of foul, filthy talk out of our coaches, and the kids know that. It’s not tolerated in this office, and in our locker room, it’s just the trickle down effect.”
In the football locker room, much like in most others at Coppell, a coach is required to be in the locker room at all times while athletes are getting ready. However, DeWitt believes that monitoring of their speech is not necessary for the team.
“We’ve got some really good kids, and there’s not a whole lot of time for that stuff either,” DeWitt said. “We’re trying to get in and get out, and those guys don’t have a whole lot of time to sit around and socialize. When we’re fixing to start practice, those guys are having to hustle out there, and at the end, they’re trying to go to lunch.”
For the players, it is a matter of simply knowing what is accepted and permitted and what is simply unacceptable to discuss.
“None of that stuff really gets policed, because we all know how to act,” Seidman said. “Coaches don’t really have to police that kind of stuff.”
In the respect of true talk in a locker room setting, the football team has no tolerance on any front for talk as vulgar as Trump’s statements. However, in his past, DeWitt has had experiences as a player with other guys making similar remarks.
“There would be a few occasions where guys would be saying things that were off color, and then as an individual, you have a choice to either walk away, or say ‘hey, pipe down’,” DeWitt said. “I think it’s just the culture we live in, it’s not just in locker rooms. It’s probably with guys behind cubicles too.”
This crude side of our culture has been witnessed in other sports as well. Coppell basketball coach and CISD assistant athletic director Kit Pehl, who played basketball at the collegiate level, has also had his fair share of experiences with suggestive statements in a locker room.
“There’s things that I experienced as a college player and maybe even as a high school player that would rival [Trump’s statements],” Pehl said. “However, in terms of what I experience with our athletes, I can’t speak for all of them, but as far as what we tolerate, [we don’t tolerate it]. I look at it as my own son. I wouldn’t say in front of kids what I wouldn’t want repeated.”
The introduction of children into his life has also altered the viewpoint of Coppell soccer coach Chad Rakestraw, who has four daughters.
“Obviously having daughters, your perspective changes a lot on how you view women, how you treat them, and how you want your daughters to be treated,” Rakestraw said. “But we’re talking about things that were spoken about or ways that women were spoken about that’s crude, that’s vulgar, that’s demeaning, that is objectifying. There’s never, even if I had no kids whatsoever, there’s never a place for it. It should be a societal expectation. It shouldn’t be something that’s accepted.”
Even though Pehl has experienced peers that have made similar remarks, he has no lower expectations of his team and their respect for others.
“I don’t believe there’s a concept of what you can say in a locker room is for there, and it’s separate from what real life is like,” Pehl said. “I wouldn’t support that kind of talk anywhere, much less in a locker room.
“For me, if I’m going to have bad character in a locker room, I’m capable of having bad character anywhere.”
While there may never be an issue that arises that is in as poor taste as Trump’s comments, the average high school basketball locker room is not always the most pure space. But the only room for vulgar talk in Pehl’s locker room stems from practice that day, or issues that need to be solved within the team. And in this case, it may be necessary.
“It’s two-way street. There are things in the locker room that you’ve got to address, and they’re not all going to be rosy,” Pehl said. “Guys can be vulgar if it goes that direction. Things can get ugly in a locker room because there’s things to address, and sometimes it’s not pleasant. That can lead to harsh words, but there’s some things you’ve got to get past to move on.”
But no matter what the sport, the coach, the athlete, the societal standard is one that is unwavering. While those who are on the ballots to become the next President of the United States may not always uphold it, one thing is for sure: the athletes in programs across Coppell athletics will.