SPORTS

'Sport is the dinosaur of equity,' sociology expert says

03/22/2013 11:59 EDT | Updated 05/22/2013 05:12 EDT
A University of Windsor professor says the culture of sport needs to change.

"Sport is the dinosaur of equity in our social institutions and we need to take a good look at that because men who respect women aren't going to abuse women," said Marge Holman, has done extensive research into the relationship between men and women in sports.

The Ontario Hockey League, for example, currently has four players facing charges of sexual assault. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Holman said the violence inherent in hockey extends to violence against women, casting women in what she calls "an almost service role."

"And then it's a culture where there's a sense of entitlement," she said. "We glorify these young men. They're not men yet, they're kids still. So 16-, 18-, 20-year-olds are being glorified and don't know how to deal with it."

Holman said the old excuse of "boys will be boys," used by some, is not good enough to justify some actions.

She said it's up to the fans who glorify the players to help change the behaviour.

For some young athletes, the experience can be overwhelming. Others, who are able to keep things in perspective and in control, view the fame as simply fun.

Joe Byrne of Woodslee, Ont., south of Windsor, played two seasons in the OHL, including a stint with the Plymouth Whalers.

"It was fun at the time, I went back to Plymouth about five years ago to watch a game and saw someone walking around with my jersey on," he said before laughing.

Byrne said the change in life was "night-and-day" when he made the OHL.

"I remember walking out for the first game I played and there was a good 100 people — 100 girls anyways — and a couple parents and families, too, waiting outside," Byrne said.

Holman said that from a young age, star athletes are idolized and protected. That leads to a dangerous culture, she said.

"Males get their glory through sport, whereas women get their glory through these males," she said. "So it creates a hierarchy that puts females at a disadvantage and males at an advantage."

The Ontario Hockey League had no immediate comment to CBC News when asked about league policy when it comes to off-ice code of conduct.

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