I am a man, and just reading detailed reports on physical abuse makes me sick. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for women, who live in physical danger every day, to go through such stories. What it must be like knowing the law will look at them with doubt, ask them to recount gory details, and look for holes in their story. If by any chance, they aim something at an influential person, lord save them because even the law won’t have enough strength to meet the financial muscle of the accused.
In light of the video and audio clips published by Harriet Robson, implicating Mason Greenwood of physical assault and rape, Manchester United’s statement reads: “We are aware of images and allegations circulating on social media. We will not make any further comment until the facts have been established. Manchester United does not condone violence of any kind.”
This isn’t new territory for Manchester United. Their star player, a constant presence on social media channels, and team leader — Cristiano Ronaldo — has a pretty compelling case waiting against him in the United States. The world was different in 2009, and Cristiano’s case got neatly brushed under the carpet and everyone moved on. The scrutiny that social media’s reach brings will force Manchester United and Greenwood to address this publicly. Which is the least they should do, but the bar is underground at this point.
Men’s football is rabidly protective of their own. There will be enough barriers between Greenwood and the full wrath of sexual assault law. Benjamin Mendy endured a long period under the radar until it became a police case in England, where he is employed. Make no mistake — Manchester United will try everything to find a way out for Greenwood. Even if he is not an A-lister, Greenwood has enough and more influence to wiggle out of this without too much harm. Maybe a quick suspension or a few months out. I am speculating, but the direction is based on past behaviour. Penguins will learn to land a double-backflip before a billion-dollar industry looks at its participants with objective eyes. A Manchester United player, especially from their academy, is too precious.
The only problem Greenwood faces is that he isn’t influential enough to be completely insulated from the repercussions of his behaviour. Cristiano was a Ballon d’Or, Champions League winner, and the world record signing at Real Madrid when he met Kathryn Mayorga in Las Vegas. Greenwood is an upcoming star lurking somewhere near the plane of his true potential. If an example is made out of him, it would only be because he is at a disposable place within the ecosystem.
Adam Johnson was arrested by Durham Police in 2015 on account of sexual activity with an underage girl. He initially pleaded not guilty, post which Sunderland played him for 28 games over the following year, without ever forcing him to prove his innocence. Sunderland suspended him only in 2016 when he finally pleaded guilty upon facing irrefutable evidence.
Harriet Robson probably did not record herself the first time Mason Greenwood abused her. That she felt the need to click on the red dot points towards an expectation of such an event. It is the most disturbing audio-clip for anyone with a functioning brain and three grams of empathy to hear. The videos she posted directly imply assault.
It is unreal that this needs to be said, by a man that too, but opening up about rape and physical abuse in public is not a hobby for women. They gain nothing from it. Instead, they expose themselves to a vulnerable position where every Average Joe will question their motive, timing, and sincerity. Some will call physical abuse a mistake; some others will point towards the lack of incriminating evidence. Do we see Mason Greenwood assaulting Robson? This is the pocket where elite sport repeatedly loses its conscience. Inside a justice system designed to protect the accused, innocence should be proven with as much rigour as guilt.
Greenwood may be innocent. It is far likelier that Robson has not willingly hurt herself to accuse him out of thin air.
I am tired of talking about rape, and I don’t even know what the thought of it feels like. Harriet Robson and Kathryn Mayorga, like most other women, probably do. Some time ago, I would have said football deserves better than Mason Greenwood, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Benjamin Mendy. It absolutely doesn’t. At the highest level, it is, like most popular sports, designed for the exploitation of power.
Kobe Bryant, OJ Simpson, Cristiano Ronaldo. Greenwood, if he is found guilty, will be a mere footnote in the history of crime and abuse in sport. There is very little anyone can do about it.