Opinion: Columnists

Gregory Kane: Time to end the rape culture

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Way to go, Reebok.

The athletic shoe company recently put the kibosh on a deal it had with rapper Rick Ross. Said deal put $3.5 million to $5 million in Ross' bank account whenever he wore the shoe.

Ross lost his Reebok contract the way those familiar with him figured he'd lose it: by doing something stupid.

In this case the something was not only stupid, but also despicable, crass and vulgar.

And, as you might have expected, a rap diddy was involved.

The title of the song is "U.O.N.E.O." It's a collaboration that Ross did with an Atlanta rapper named Rocko.

One line in particular got Ross in trouble with women's groups and anybody else with even a shred of human decency.

"Put Molly all in the champagne. She ain't even know it. I took her home and I enjoy that. She ain't even know it."

Molly is the street name for the drug MDMA, which is supposedly the purest form of Ecstasy. So, in essence, Ross was pretty much boasting about date rape through drugging.

Except he was too clueless to realize what he'd done. Here's his reaction after the proverbial grits hit the proverbial fan:

"Woman is the most precious gift known to man. And there was a misunderstanding with a lyric, a misinterpretation where the term rape was used. I would never use the term rape, you know, in my lyrics. And as far as my camp, hip hop don't condone that, the streets don't condone that, nobody condones that."

So, in Ross' curious worldview, because he never used the word rape, the line he uttered was neither referring to nor condoning date rape.

A little more about Ross: that's not his real name. He's actually William Leonard Roberts II. He adopted the name Rick Ross from a notorious California drug dealer named Freeway Ricky Ross.

Early in his career, Roberts tried to con the hip-hop community by claiming he was a former drug dealer in Miami.

Former Florida corrections officer was more accurate. Yes, Roberts tried to build a fictitious criminal background to build his so-called "street creds" in the rap world and got caught in a lie.

So why would we expect this guy to even know there is a legal thing as date rape?

Reebok officials recognize that Roberts remains clueless. They issued this statement:

"We are very disappointed that he has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse."

An "understanding of the issue"? An "appropriate level of remorse"? Not only has Roberts shown neither understanding nor remorse, but he's also whining about Reebok dumping him.

"Ross is telling people he was entitled to corporate forgiveness," the website tmz.com reported, "because he did so much for the brand, bringing classic Reeboks back in style in the hip-hop community."

"Entitled" is an interesting choice of word, is it not? It reveals a certain mindset, one that indicates why Ross is so clueless about the issue of date rape.

It's been said there is a culture among male rappers and athletes that leads them to think they are entitled to female "companionship." Rape -- date, forcible and statutory -- isn't seen as an aberration, but an obligation.

Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, the two football players for Steubenville High School in Ohio who were recently found guilty of date rape, no doubt felt such "entitlement."

Edgar Gonzalez and Joan Toribio, two Connecticut high school football players, have denied charges that they had sex with a 13-year-old girl. If the charges are true, then Gonzalez and Toribio are guilty of statutory rape. (Some of their supporters have trotted out the infuriating and egregious "statutory rape isn't really rape" defense.)

Reebok was right to kick Roberts to the curb, but that won't end the rape culture among some athletes and male rappers.

Washington Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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Gregory Kane

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The Washington Examiner