Are we really innocent until proven guilty?

Mason Schweizer, Staff Writer

When one hears the names Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger, the first thing that comes to mind is their athletic accomplishments in their respective sports, both individually and as a team.

Most people have forgotten that the two stars once faced sexual assault allegations, twice in the case of big Ben.


Neither athlete was convicted of their crimes, as the case was either dismissed or an out-court-settlement was reached.

For hockey’s superstar Patrick Kane, he will now forever hold similar labels. Both good and bad.

And the bad will forever outweigh the good.

On Aug. 2, I woke up and checked my phone, just like any other day. However, on this morning, I checked my phone to the alarming notification from ESPN: “Breaking: Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane being investigated for alleged sexual assault.”

I was stunned. Just six weeks prior, I stood on Soldier Field and watched Kane celebrate at the Blackhawks’ third Stanley Cup parade in six seasons. And today, I was reading that the biggest superstar in the Windy City was an alleged rapist.

After the initial shock wore off, I knew that whether innocent or guilty, Kane would never be looked at in the same light.

Here we are, roughly four months after the allegations, and Kane’s accuser has decided she will no longer cooperate with prosecutors on the case, effectively ending the investigation and pursuit of charges.

It was a long three months, full of twists in the case that could only be dreamed up of in a movie. For example, in September, the accuser’s mother claimed that the rape kit in her daughter’s investigation had been compromised, proven by the tampered bag that was sitting at her doorstep. Her attorney quickly confirmed that it was indeed the rape kit that was essential evidence in the high-profile case, before learning the kit was a hoax, and that the actual kit was still in police custody.
With a lack of evidence in the actual kit and the fake kit making it easy to question the accuser’s credibility, the case has crumbled, and Kane will soon be officially cleared of any wrong-doing.

However, the label of a rapist will stick with Kane forever. He will not be able to deke past it the way he dekes past defenders seemingly every night. No matter how many red lamps he lights up, no matter how many banners he helps add to the United Center, this stigma will follow the sharp-skating sniper wherever he goes.

And it’s not fair.

In a world where social media gives us instant video of alleged crimes, society is quick to forget that alleged criminals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Within days of the allegations, millions of people, hockey fans or not, decided that Kane was a rapist without a single piece of evidence hinting towards it.

It doesn’t help that aside from the die-hard hockey fans, people will see Kane’s name in the news more for the allegations than the dirty dangles he places on goaltenders throughout the NHL.

Kane, who plays a niche sport, the fifth most popular sport in the country, is hardly seen on Sports Center or your nightly news for his talents or the charity work he does in Chicago. But as these harsh allegations came out, he was seen many times on televisions across America, portrayed in a negative way, for allegations that never made it to court.

See, athletes like Kobe and Roethlisberger play in the two most popular sports in America. They have since won championships in the national spotlight, and have been able to recover and bring their respective images back into positive light.

Now, I know this tone I have taken may give some the idea that I believe athletes should not be scrutinized for mistakes. That could not be further from the truth. In fact, I believe that professional athletes should be looked at under a bigger microscope, as they are role models for the youth of the nation.

And I am not telling you to worship Kane as a model citizen. His drunken public behavior that is too commonplace for my liking has proven he is not that. I am asking you, the public, to not slander the name of someone based off nothing except assumptions you have made with zero evidence to support your claims and labels.

The face of American hockey has an ugly scar on it. One that came in the form of a public slapshot right to the chin.


And it came undeservedly so.