News and Commentary

Harvard Men’s Soccer Team Suspended For Rating Women’s Soccer Team On Sexual Appeal

On Thursday, Harvard University announced their decision to suspend the men’s soccer team for the remainder of the season in light of a “report” uncovering sexist remarks and the numerical rating of players on the Harvard women’s soccer team based upon their sexual appeal.

The men’s team is currently in first place in the Ivy League. If the team played this Saturday against Columbia and won, they would be granted an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. They will forfeit instead.

According to The Harvard Crimson, there was an initial investigation into a Google Group document originated in 2012, in which men’s players numerically rated the incoming freshmen based on their sexual attractiveness and granted a “hypothetical sexual position.” Upon this investigation, the university found the sexism to be widespread, coming to the conclusion that the men’s team would pay for their thoughts and words by suspending the rest of their season–post-season matches included.

In an email, Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise informed Harvard athletes about the suspension via email, explaining that the investigated sexism “appears to be more widespread across the team and has continued beyond 2012, including in 2016.”

“As a direct result of what Harvard Athletics has learned, we have decided to cancel the remainder of the 2016 men’s soccer season,” wrote Scalise. “The team will forfeit its remaining games and will decline any opportunity to achieve an Ivy League championship or to participate in the NCAA Tournament this year.”

The investigation into the 2012 document began last week, on University President Drew G. Faust’s order. According to both Scalise and Faust, athletes on the men’s soccer team “were not initially forthcoming about their involvement in the ‘reports.'”

“The decision to cancel a season is serious and consequential, and reflects Harvard’s view that both the team’s behavior and the failure to be forthcoming when initially questioned are completely unacceptable, have no place at Harvard, and run counter to the mutual respect that is a core value of our community,” wrote Faust, in a statement.

Faust says she was “deeply distressed to learn that the appalling actions of the 2012 men’s soccer team were not isolated to one year or the actions of a few individuals.”

According to the Crimson, Scalisa has promised that the “Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response will work to ‘further educate’ the men’s soccer team specifically and student-athletes generally.”

“Harvard Athletics has zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” added Scalise.

Pieter S. Lehrer, the men’s soccer coach, said via a statement that he is “beyond disappointed that our season has ended in this way, but we respect the decision made by our administration.”

In a joint op-ed, the six women who were “rated” in the men’s sexist “scouting report” from 2012 addressed the athletes’ “hurtful” actions, though they ended the piece offering their forgiveness.

“Having considered members of this team our close friends for the past four years, we are beyond hurt to realize these individuals could encourage, silently observe, or participate in this kind of behavior, and for more than four years have neglected to apologize until this week,” wrote the female athletes.

“We have seen the ‘scouting report’ in its entirety. We know the fullest extent of its contents: the descriptions of our bodies, the numbers we were each assigned, and the comparison to each other and recruits in classes before us. This document attempts to pit us against one another, as if the judgment of a few men is sufficient to determine our worth. But, men, we know better than that. Eighteen years of soccer taught us that. Eighteen years—as successful, powerful, and undeniably brilliant female athletes – taught us that,” they added.

The op-ed concludes: “Finally, to the men of Harvard Soccer and any future men who may lay claim to our bodies and choose to objectify us as sexual objects, in the words of one of us, we say together: ‘I can offer you my forgiveness, which is—and forever will be—the only part of me that you can ever claim as yours.'”

“As a direct result of what Harvard Athletics has learned, we have decided to cancel the remainder of the 2016 men’s soccer season.”

Harvard Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise

Since the Harvard announcement, social media has erupted with opinions on the move. Some are applauding the decision, but others are questioning how words, however distasteful, have ended a season of Harvard athletes. What will such thought crimes shut down next?