And then he was in a Black Caps squad and I thought, "What, seriously?" Because, you know, when he was accused and tried I'd decided he was being blown up... as in his cricketing talents were being misrepresented to make a better story. There was probably some truth to that. He's had years to improve.
But I then stopped thinking about Scott Kuggeleijn. Why? Because it was a T20 and, frankly, who cares? Because it's stupidly difficult to follow cricket these days but, at least, better than it was in those dark days in the post-Vettori and pre-2015 World Cup. There are people who actually bother writing articles about how few opportunities to the Black Caps get to play now. That's really sad but it's progress. And also because I pay attention to too many sports and, in particular, I'd started thinking about tennis.
But I'm back to Scott Kuggeleijn. Because suddenly... days after the fact... everyone and their mum is crawling out of the woordwork to talk about Kuggeleijn.
I'm not sure if he did well in the T20. I don't particularly care for the format. It's the ultimate glorification of the bat over the ball and... wickets are much more exciting. Christ! How do people not get that? But in any case, this is basically the takeaway people have:
I’m not saying that Kuggeleijn should never represent his country, or that he can never rise above this. But when a man represents New Zealand in a high profile sport like cricket or rugby he is automatically elevated to a position of unique status and potential influence in New Zealand society. And for that reason, the position carries a reasonable burden of expectation for decent behaviour. And an expectation of public accountability when he falls short.Actually, she is saying that.
Also this silence you hear? Do you know how hard I had to look to find out why Tim Southee wasn't playing in one of the recent matches. Likewise Neil Wagner? These guys have been leading and key men in the pace attack for years now. In theory, their not playing should be big news. But it wasn't. And the reason for this is that NZers suck. Honestly, we're awful, small minded people who like to pretend that we're a bunch of friendly, down to earth, fair minded and honest people. What rot. What country are you living in? Look at the Unruly Tourist headlines that everyone's been going on about lately. The reaction of the public and politicians has not been commensurate with their behaviour. Tourists rob shop isn't the headline. It's not news when the criminal isn't a tourist so it shouldn't be when it is. And to the extent that there is some news to be made out of the family? Let's talk about how they were basically turned into NZ's favourite reality TV show. That's the story here.
The truth is that NZ and the rest of the wealthy English speaking world has some deeply problematic ideas about criminals, the criminal justice system and crime. What is interesting to the public is not the same as what is in the public interest.
Let me put it this way. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.
Focus on that bit about time. If you're done for 24 years and you do every bit of that sentence you absolutely should be able to walk out of prison as though you weren't gone at all. If you're sent up for 2 years and put on a sex offenders register for life, then you should be on that sex offenders register for life. The thing is that every sentence for every crime plays out that way. Except, maybe, among some people who like to hero worship offenders for certain kinds of crime... hopefully crimes the supplicants believe shouldn't be crimes.
The justice system should be able to prescribe punishments and those punishments shouldn't go beyond that prescription. Furthermore, the system should be able to make accurate/useful prescriptions.
Neither of those things are really true.
It's actually a real mess. For every famous person, for instance, who gets away with [whatever] there's another who ends up having to pay a higher price than they should be. Why? Backlash. The court of public opinion is meant to be a metaphor but the reality is that people act like it isn't. Yes, a lot of judges are complete screw ups (both here and abroad) but we shouldn't be able to say things like this for good reasons. People are weak and tend not to do their jobs properly even without public pressure. Look at that petition trying to get that woman who killed a teenager a harsher sentence. That was a normal sentence. The story should either be about the vindictiveness of the petition or completely and utterly remove itself from that specific example. And you've just got to watch for the outrage the next time Peter Dutton ignores the punishment of some Australian court to deport some poor sod from Australia for having a "bad character"... this is almost always an excuse to fob someone Australia cocked up and turned into a criminal on to some other country.
Scott Kuggeleijn is not a criminal. You might think he should be but he's not. And if you think that, maybe, the justice system reached the right conclusion but the way Kuggeleijn's defence ensured that outcome was completely wrong... how long must Kuggeleijn suffer for that? It's not like these Indian cricketers who made offensive remarks this month. We're talking about remarks that were made in 2017. Don't make false equivalences. (And if Kuggeleijn was convicted on some other charge at some time or other and is, in fact, a criminal hopefully you understand I'm talking purely in relation to what he's most well known for.)
What Scott Kuggeleijn is doesn't require too much thought to find. There is a very long and extensive argument about what sports stars are. Not that Kuggeleijn is really a star. At least, not yet. Should we care if an athlete spends millions on cars and is just generally a complete arse environmentally? If he eats gold plated steak? If he abuses fans on Instagram when they abuse him for doing so, is that actually a problem? Or what about the more traditional stories? Sleeping around, get wasted and bar fights? Are they athletes? Are they role models? Why should athletes be role models? Should we tacitly endorse the idea of hero worshipping people who run, jump, shoot, race or throw for a living by even entertaining these questions?
I'm not going to answer those questions because they've been unanswered for a long time for years. They're complicated questions. But they are the context for Kuggeleijn. Not #MeToo.
In the sporting arena, there are inspiring models for how this can look. Around the world, a handful of high profile male sportsmen use their public platform to stand up for equality, inclusion and nonviolence. Scottish tennis champion, Andy Murray has attracted kudos for his support of equality for women in professional tennis, and calling out sexism in media interviews. Former NFL football star Colin Kaepernick is not only an inspiring campaigner against racist violence in the US; he is also a well-read proponent of Black feminists, who amplifies their insights against sexism and racism. And closer to home, Australian Wallaby David Pocock promotes equality and inclusion on lots of social and environmental issues. He is also “interested in the idea of challenging patriarchy”.There's an enormous problem with taking this approach. There's a reason this role model question is always coming back... we're talking about people who find it very easy to go from hero to villain.
Maybe I come across as a bit paranoid... rambling... contradictory. I should. That's largely by design. If you can look at these issues and come away without a headache, you're not looking at it hard enough. And you might say, "Hold on Harry that article you quoted... and still haven't linked... isn't really talking about the media. It's talking about what NZ Cricket should be doing."
In the wake of MeToo, this position seems strikingly tone deaf to wide global concerns about sexism, sexual harassment and sexual violence. We see the interconnections. We know that the criminal justice process is a blunt instrument. And that a not guilty verdict does not mean there is nothing to account for. No-one is asking for “relitigation”. But doing nothing is not a neutral position. When Kuggeleijn appears on the field and the commentators talk up his glory with bat and ball, it’s as if his actions off the field have been forgiven and forgotten by the cricketing fraternity.You see, this is the problem and it's why this author actually is talking about consigning Kuggeleijn to the dustbin. Also, here's the link.
In an ideal world we could all go back to forgetting about Kuggeleijn. In an ideal world might instincts would be correct and he'd never quite be good enough to break into the Black Caps. We'd never have to use him as any kind of test case.
That probably sounds... very far from ideal. But it is. Because today it's Kuggeleijn and we don't have any answers for what to do with him, same as we had no answers about what to do with Ben Stokes or Doug Bracewell or any other athlete who has ever been in the same rough position: caught doing something illegal, immoral or just irresponsible. We're not even sure what exactly Kuggeleijn counts as. Should we be treating him as a rapist because he was acquitted:
The judge in the second trial, in his ruling, said “Consent given reluctantly or later regretted is still consent.”
Well, no. Consent is enthusiastic and communicated.
It seems that Kuggeleijn’s defence rested on an outdated and incredibly damaging notion of what consent is and common rape myths. And it worked.I'm not sure if this author is really aware of the implications of expecting people to conform to standards that they can't be expected to know... the judge is correct about "consent" is: that's the law and that's what we have to expect people to know. Whether we can expect people to behave to evolving standards of morality that are held by some people and rejected by others and which aren't enshrined in the law (see: the quote from the judge) is a very complicated question. And if you want to pretend it doesn't exist and doesn't inform what you're saying like this author then I am sorry but you're dishonest, irresponsible and ought to be muted. Or should you? What is the appropriate moral punishment?
Treating Kuggeleijn as a test case... treating anyone as a test case... means that we need to be confident of our answers to a host of troubling questions... not just about what I've discussed but also about what actually happened. It requires expert knowledge and sometimes impossible knowledge. We can use hypothetical people for these purposes. We don't need test cases. We shouldn't experiment with peoples' lives.
There is an alternative, though. And it's not the same as silence.
NZ Cricket is absolutely correct to just ignore Kuggeleijn's rape charge, trials and acquittals. They're not Kuggeleijn and they didn't do anything wrong. And we're not sure what exactly it is that Kuggeleijn did do wrong. Not in a sense that we can have any clear answer about what to do with him, anyway. Is he a rapist? Or is he just the same as those Indian cricketers just timeshifted back several years? And what's the correct response to either of those when we remember he was acquitted? Well, I'm saying we don't need any answer at all. Instead, what we must simply do is talk about Scott Kuggeleijn.
Think about it for a moment. We can't know what happened for real. We can't know what to do about what we did know happened. But by remaining silent NZ Cricket can provoke a conversation about Kuggeleijn. It doesn't have to go anywhere... although it should be more responsible than the two articles I linked... and it doesn't have to do anything. All it has to do is remind people that he was acquitted of rape charges. You, as a journalist, should go up to someone from NZ Cricket or associated with the national cricket scene and ask them, "Does Scott Kuggeleijn's acquittal in a rape trial matter?" And they should say, "We have selected/not selected Kuggeleijn and are aware that he was tried for rape." It's the perfect non-answer. It's enough to keep the conversation firing on all cylinders!
And, look, this really is perfect. I'm not being sarcastic. If you're willing to act as judge, jury and executioner over a situation where there's no accountability, the stakes are enormous and everything is unclear, then you are a deeply problematic person. But if all you're doing is saying, "Well, maybe we should talk about Kuggeleijn?" or saying... as I have been... "Here's what we should be talking about when we're talking about Kuggeleijn" then we're not being problematic. Instead, what we're doing is... well, let's use erosion as a metaphor for morality. Our moral standards are constantly evolving... just like a cliff... and subject to various forces which also change... such as water and wind.. but we can never know what the final state will really look like and there's no intention to the whole process: morality just simply is. Talking about Kuggeleijn is the equivalent of not building a sea wall.
The other option is, of course, to say, "We're not sure what Scott Kuggeleijn's done or has not done. We know that he was acquitted of rape and that many people are disappointed with the arguments his defence team advanced. What we do know is that Kuggeleijn is a talented cricketer and under normal circumstances would likely be selected. However, it is unclear what the best way forwards is and the uncertainty is damaging to the game. Hopefully a time of greater clarity will arrive but for the foreseeable future, Scott Kuggeleijn will not be selected for any more full internationals." A lot of people would take issue with that statement. But that's my point. They wouldn't be doing so for the same reasons. And that's because this is a confusing story and the denied certainty of the two authors is, in that context, as disappointing to me as the defence team's arguments are to every thinking person.