You might have noticed that all SB Nation blogs have changed their logos this morning to feature the slogan "It's On Us". This includes Silver Seven. Some of you have asked what the change is about and what the phrase means and it's worth understanding more and talking about openly. In case you didn't make the trip to the network's front page (let's face it, there is never any hockey content there so there's not a lot of incentive for hockey fans to make the trip) you might have missed out on what this campaign is about. It stems from an initiative launched by the Obama government in September to end sexual assault on college campuses.
It's not that "It's On Us" isn't a worthy campaign; it is. All of us, me, you, your friends, could do more to help victims of sexual assault by believing what people who have experienced it tell us, by supporting programs that help victims of sexual assault, by talking about the importance of consent. These are just a few suggestions. We really do need to do better and more than the bare minimum. The bare minimum isn't enough and has never been enough.
That includes SB Nation and its associated blogs. If we're going to support this campaign, then we should fully support this campaign. "It's On Us" tackles a serious issue and our support of it should be more than just optics. We can be a force for a lot of positive change.
But we're just piggybacking here. We're letting someone else, we're letting other organizations, do the heavy lifting. There's a wide range of sports cultures presented in SB Nation blogs. Some are more accepting than others. Some work really hard to create a culture of tolerance. Others don't. Each blog is responsible for policing its own community. For some it's working, for others it's not. The same goes for posts and spaces not associated with team blogs on the network; a lot of offensive, vile stuff is allowed to pass for sports and social commentary there. It shouldn't.
If it truly is "On Us" as a community, both at the team level and more broadly as a network, then we need to stand up and make our blog communities better, safer, and more accepting. For those participating in sports communities online, whether that's blogs or twitter or Facebook groups, think about how you use language. Describing players as "pussies" and any number of other derogatory terms based on gender and/or sexuality (this applies to other issues of discrimination as well) creates an atmosphere that accepts and even promotes that people of other genders are not welcome and that it's acceptable for this exclusion to be the norm. This needs to end.
But we're not just communities talking about sports. We're a vast group of writers, editors, and managers who write about sports. Sometimes that's really hard. Sometimes sexual assaults happen and involve athletes. Without some guidance, it can be a really hard to tackle these complicated topics. If you're a writer or if you're just an interested sports fan, check out there are some excellent guidelines on covering sexual violence that might be helpful reading material for people who have the misfortune of having to report on this stuff:
- The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma (if interviewing an alleged victim yourself)
- How to Report On Sexual Assault and Actually Report Well from Arts.Mic
- Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women: Reporting on Rape and Sexual Violence
Without changing the way that we report on news stories related to this subject, awareness in general can often be hollow.