ON March 26th 1992, boxer Mike Tyson was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for rape which rocked the boxing community.
Coming out of jail in 1996, Tyson would return to the ring and go on to regain the World Championship from Frank Bruno.
Now if Mike Tyson, one of the biggest stars in sports, was allowed to continue his in-ring career – then why has Ched Evans not been allowed the same luxury?
Evans himself was convicted of rape, has been released from prison but has been denied to return to competitive football for the likes of Sheffield United and Oldham due to major outcry from fans and even members of parliament.
However, Evans has always maintained his innocence and has shown no contrition for his crime.
I will take a look as to how and why, in the last twenty years, attitudes have changed and why Evans is being denied the chance to return to the game and is it justified?
Ched Evans was jailed for five years after raping a 19-year-old.
Ever since his release, he’s attempted to get himself back in the game with old club Sheffield United.
However, a petition signed by 150,000 surfaced saying that the club’s attempts to sign the player was “a deep insult to the woman who was raped and to all women like her who have suffered at the hands of a rapist”, which led to the club pulling out of the deal.
In December, Hartlepool United manager Ronnie Moore announced he would like to sign the striker in the club’s attempts to stay in the football league.
But following outcry from supporters on social media and Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, the club quickly stated that they wouldn’t sign the Welsh International.
The nearest the striker has come to a club was Oldham Athletic, who had previously signed former convict Lee Hughes upon his prison release.
After a few of their sponsors ended their ties with the club and public outcry from the likes of Labour leader Ed Miliband speaking out on the signing, they too pulled out.
So looking back, what are the factors that have been effective in putting a halt to Evans’ plans?
One huge factor is time, with Evans looking to get back in the game almost immediately after being released.
David Cameron said it best in an interview on BBC North West Tonight: “Perhaps he needs to do more to put back in to the community some sense of atonement for what he’s done before he restarts his career.”
With him heavily exposed in the media limelight, there’s little chance right now that any deal he makes will go down without public reaction.
Now that’s not to say that there wasn’t an ounce of public backlash towards Tyson returning to the ring, but twenty years ago there was not a social media website called Twitter which gave people to the platform to post whatever they think at will.
In a recent episode of BBC Sportshour, Editor of Loaded Magazine and former News Of The World writer Martin Daubney explained how the media’s attitude towards Tyson was very different to recent cases like Evans.
Martins said: “The Evans case was very different to the Tyson incident because the media were actually championing his innocence.
“There was a feeling that Mike had been wronged and his reintegration back into boxing was very much eased by the fact that he’d had a very sympathetic media treatment will incarcerated.”
Twitter has been responsible for campaigns for AND against Evans getting back into football, and has even been responsible for naming the victim of the rape crime ten times since the incident took place.
I think it’s safe to say that Twitter has been a been huge factor in impacting the sporting world, which has been proven very true in other parts of the world.
Talk of the rehabilitation of sportsmen has also been at large in the United States of America, with two incidents with high-profile NFL players getting the nation talking.
On February 15th 2014, Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice was arrested for assault after striking his fiancee in an incident which was later released on film by TMZ.
The event led to the Ravens initially terminating Rice’s contract in September and the NFL declaring that Rice was suspended indefinitely from competition.
However, he was later reinstated and is now in the same position as Evans here in the United Kingdom… a free agent looking to get back in the game
However, Professional Marie Hardin of Penn State University, who was also a part of the Sportshour episode mentioned earlier, believes that the public reaction to Rice has given the NFL a wake-up call.
Marie said: “I do think it’s been a rude awakening here for the NFL in terms of thinking about the way the public now can weigh in.
“It maybe a small percentage of fans that weigh in publicly but they weigh in in a way that gets attention.
“And it’s certainty gotten the interest of the NFL.”
What’s also got the attention of the NFL is the arrests and charging of Indianoplois Colts’ Josh McNary for rape in January 2015.
The Colts handled the situation very well by putting out a statement calling for NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell to add McNary to the NFL’s “Commissioner Exemption List”.
What this means is that McNary is barred from practice and competition while an NFL investigation is under way.
Even with their big Championship match with the New England Patriots just around the corner (which he was expected to play in), the Colts had the “rude awakening” mentioned earlier and took measures to make sure that potential public outcry did not break out to such a great extent.
Just think, if the Evans case is so big here in the United Kingdom, how much do you think a case like this could escalate to in the United States?
As the attitudes have changed towards this topic, so have the times.
Never has the world been this democratized both on social and mainstream media.
So it’s clear that an incident like the Ched Evans was never going to be let down quietly and clubs are starting the get the picture about how strong public reactions can be.
I personally don’t believe that public opinion shouldn’t be so influential that it prevents someone, no matter who they are, from doing what they love.
But in the case of a high-profile sportsman, that sportsman should have known well enough than to expect an easy passage back in the game and who in their right mind should run the risk of public outcry and losing sponsors just to get him?
To borrow a quote from Daily Express writer Mick Dennis – Ched Evans should play again… but not at my club.