In spite of my complete aversion to sport (with the possible exceptions of politics and chess, if they count), I’ve been watching the unfolding drama of the so-called “Dickileaks” scandal. Yet another case of sports professionals behaving like complete tools and then being shocked when that fact is revealed to the world.
Most of the focus in the media has been on the girl who revealed the photos and what other material is (or was) in her possession. Very little of it, with the notable exception of several articles by Derryn Hinch, has been on the underlying issues and those issues with wider implications.
In particular whether the St. Kilda players, who became involved with the girl in question when she was 16, really only met her after a game, or whether it was weeks earlier when they visited her school. They and their club have not commented further on that.
The other issue, which may be even more important in a wider context, is the relationship between the AFL and the Victoria Police. Last year, when the initial reports of a St. Kilda player getting the girl pregnant were revealed, the police investigated and cleared that player and others of any wrong doing. It would later be revealed that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) existed between the AFL and the Victorian Police, aimed at minimising trouble for the AFL. The MOU has since been dissolved, but it was certainly in effect when the investigation into the football players’ involvement with this young girl. As yet there have been no statements from the St. Kilda Football Club, the AFL or the Victorian Police as to how the MOU may have affected or even influenced that investigation. Derryn Hinch has reported that the police interview with the girl at the time was interrupted several times by her taking calls from people to advise her how to answer and that one or more of these calls may have been from Greg Hutchinson, the operations manager of the St. Kilda Football Club.
There’s a great big, ugly question mark over the entire affair. Not just the behaviour of the players, but also the actions of the AFL’s and St. Kilda Football Club’s management to resolve it.
Which, of course, brings us to the court case. From a PR perspective, I do not see how anyone thought that suing a (now) 17-year-old girl on Christmas Eve was a good idea, but that’s exactly what they did. Ross Levin, Vice President of the St. Kilda Football Club and the lawyer leading the charge, made numerous statements about suing the girl for numerous complaints, including defamation and breach of copyright (if she did not take the photos, then she does not hold the copyright, so that part was included to allege the photos weren’t hers to begin with). Mr. Levin went on to say that they would be seeking damages claims which could be obtained for up to fifteen years after a ruling in their favour. Not that that’s actually aimed at making money off the girl for the club, it’s just a legal tactic to enforce their will upon her.
Fortunately Justice Marshall was unconvinced and ordered all parties into mediation, which is scheduled for later this month. No doubt we’ll hear more in the news when that date rolls around, while people harp on Twitter about wanting to see the other photos.
Speaking of Twitter and various other sites, the sheer amount of vile, bilious crap directed at the child at the centre of this scandal by a great many people has well and truly passed disgusting proportions. Sure, she may have made some mistakes, but that’s what being a teenager is all about. Well, that and embarrassment upon later realisation of those mistakes. It’s difficult to tell if this is astro-turfing on behalf of the St. Kilda Football Club or just people being vile, apparently trying to push the girl towards some kind of breakdown. At the end of the day, I don’t think it really matters which of the two it is or if it is some of each, it’s the end result of all those messages and posts that matters.
One thing is certain, what we are witnessing is a large campaign of bullying, both from football officials like Mr. Levin and nameless denizens of the Internet, against a girl who isn’t even old enough to vote yet.