- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2004

If the University of Colorado is serious about protecting women from violence, it will never again put a young woman on its football team.

Five years ago, Colorado reaped undeserved positive publicity when it suited up a woman — reserve kicker Katie Hnida — for a game. Today, Colorado is reaping richly deserved negative publicity for the barbaric behavior of some of its football players and recruits — behavior that allegedly includes rape and sexual assault. Miss Hnida (now enrolled at the University of New Mexico) has made the most widely publicized allegation, telling Sports Illustrated this month that an unnamed Colorado teammate raped her four years ago.

Miss Hnida did not go to police. But allegations made by some others have resulted in lawsuits. “The school has been sued in federal court by three women who say they were raped by football players or recruits at or just after a 2001 off-campus party,” the Associated Press reported. “Four other women, including former player Katie Hnida, also say they have been sexually assaulted by football athletes since 1997, though no charges have been filed. Boulder District Attorney Mary Keenan said in a deposition last year she believed the football team uses women and alcohol to entice recruits, a claim denied by university officials.”

University regents have named a committee to investigate the situation, and the university president and chancellor have placed football coach Gary Barnett on leave pending the outcome of the investigation, citing “inappropriate and insensitive” remarks he made about Miss Hnida’s athletic skills in the context of her rape accusation.

Clearly, the committee and the courts must pursue the truth and justice. But school authorities around the country should not let political correctness intimidate them from making a much-needed conclusion for football programs generally: Women should be banned from playing the game at all levels of competition.

Only a few female kickers have played college football, but female high school players are more common. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which represents state governing bodies for high school sports, says 1,477 girls participated on the tackle football teams last year at 306 U.S. high schools.

That’s a national disgrace.

There is a connection between the increasing disrespect shown to women in our society and an ultra-feminist ideology that pushes teen-age girls to play a brutal contact sport with teen-age boys.

A boy on a coed football squad — or playing against a coed squad — faces an irreconcilable conflict between his duty as a man and his duty as a player. As a man, he must never strike a woman. As a player he must strike teammates during scrimmages, and opposing players during games, fairly and within the rules but with all the force he can muster.

“Football,” says the first sentence of the NCAA Football Code, “is an aggressive, rugged contact sport.” Every play starts and ends with players colliding violently.

When a school authority figure — i.e., the football coach — instructs a boy to hit a girl, a game that should be a character-builder is turned into a character-killer.

Make no mistake: Any football player who rapes or assaults a woman should be tried, convicted and sent to prison. Any administrator or coach who turns a blind eye to immoral behavior by the students in his charge should be fired. But the ideologues that put girls on football fields must be held accountable, too. They are guilty of normalizing the use of force against women.

The colleges that have put women on their teams have tried to finesse this issue by limiting females to the place-kicker position. But high schools are playing girls elsewhere. The NFHS has not done a survey on the issue, but NFHS communications director Bruce Howard told me that newspaper reports show “there are girls from time to time that are actually defensive backs, or playing some position on the 11-player team as opposed to the kicker.”

But even as kickers, girls cannot avoid being the instrument or object of physical force in a legitimately played football game. Under NCAA football rules, kickers are protected from contact only until they have had a reasonable time to regain their balance — unless the kick has been touched, in which case they can be hit immediately. In the event of a fumbled snap or blocked kick, a female kicker is just like every other player. The game requires her to block, tackle, pass or run. Whichever of these actions she takes, she will hit or be hit.

To do that safely, she has to practice hitting and being hit. For a boy to play football with a girl, the boy must become habituated to hitting girls.

That is not merely un-American, but uncivilized. There are many endeavors where men and women rightfully compete on the same playing field (I would pick Margaret Thatcher to run Britain over Tony Blair any day), but the football field is not one of them. American schools should ban girls from playing football, and do it now.

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor of Human Events and is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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