Trending on Facebook: "Darren Sharper: Former NFL Player Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Rape."
Every single headline about Darren Sharper features the same qualification behind his name, some variation of "ex-NFL star."
Being a rapist has nothing to do with being a successful NFL player.
Last month, Brandon Vandenburg was convicted and sentenced for rape. Once again, headlines rarely referred to him by name, and when they did, always prefaced it with a form of "former Vanderbilt football player."
Before that, it was "former Stanford swimmer" Brock Turner. Never mind Turner being a convicted rapist, his university and sport were far more pressing.
Oftentimes these news articles don't even bother naming the rapist in the headline, convicted or accused. They simply call rapists like David Sowell "Former MU football player" or accused rapist Torrey Green "Former USU football player."
It's rare, almost unheard of, to put the word "rapist" or even the words "accused rapist" before a name. Instead, there's almost always some qualifying description, which often replaces the name entirely.
But again, being a rapist has nothing to do with being an athlete. Their education or sport has no implication on their crime and certainly doesn't do anything to justify it. However, this sort of reporting so often helps the audience sympathize with the offenders, commenting on how sad Turner, Sharper, Vandenburg, Sowell, or Green's loss of future is.
The media frames Torrey Green as an NFL hopeful, suggesting that this rape case is derailing his career, as if it's in some way the fault of the victim for impacting his life, despite his irreversible impact on hers.
It frames Brock Turner as a successful swimmer at a prestigious university, not as the criminal the justice system has proven him to be.
Time and time again, these cases pop up on the news, and time and time again, the news focuses on the irrelevant "qualifications" of the perpetrators of crimes. It's time for us and for news outlets to acknowledge that there is no justification or excuse for sexual assault. A rapist is a rapist. Playing a sport doesn't change that.