Josh Giddey case is latest example of NBA’s misogyny problem


When you continue to embrace a man who reportedly impregnated a 13-year-old when he was in college, and honor that same man regularly by inviting him to marquee league events (like the 2023 All-Star Game) alongside Kareem Abdul Jabbar and LeBron James, it makes it really hard to discipline a current player for allegedly having sex with a minor.

I’m talking, of course, about Karl Malone, the namesake of the Karl Malone Award, which goes to the best college power forward in the country each year. Allegations that Malone fathered a child with a woman who was, at the time, just 13 years old, while he was a 20-year-old student at Louisiana Tech, have circulated for years. Malone has never addressed them publicly. At the 2023 NBA All-Star Game, Malone told the Salt Lake Tribune, “I’m not discussing any of that. I don’t care. That’s my life, it’s my personal life, and I’ll deal with that like I’ve had to deal with everything. So, whatever. Whatever, I’m human.”

Okay, Karl. I know a lot of guys who are “human,” and none of them have ever had sex with a 13-year-old. “But it was the 1980s,” you might say. “Things were different then.” Actually, you are correct. The age of consent in Louisiana was 18 by 1920, and reduced back to 17 in 2007. So, no, this has never been okay in recent memory.

This all brings us to current NBA player Josh Giddey, who has been similarly accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old, as anyone under 17 is considered too young to consent to sex under the law. In case you’re wondering, no U.S. state has an age of consent as low as 15, and those that set the age of consent under 18 often have additional laws that set a maximum age difference between the parties when one of them is under 18, usually three to four years. Giddey is seven years older than the girl he is alleged to have committed statutory rape against. There is no universe in which this, if true, is legal or even okay.

As for his part, Giddey has refused to comment on the ongoing NBA investigation, telling the media, “I understand the question, obviously, but there’s no further comment right now.” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault made a similar non-comment, telling the media. “Personal matter, and I have no comment on it.” Daigneault had previously said, “Available to play. Will play. No change in status from a basketball standpoint. Still, I have no comment on anything else. Just with the information that we have at this point, that’s the decision that we’ve made. It’s really not even a decision, to be honest with you.”

Because why would a little thing like allegations of statutory rape keep a guy off the floor?

Giddey has remained with the team and on the floor since the allegations hit the headlines, getting an ovation from fans on Saturday (For what? Ugh), and garnering comments on X (formerly Twitter) like “We stand with him.”

You do? Really? Not even a little part of you thinks Giddey might be problematic?

This is nothing new for the NBA, where players never seem to have much to say when it comes to violence against women. Have you ever heard a player comment on Karl Malone? Or Josh Giddey? What about Miles Bridges’ felony domestic violence charge? How about the allegations against Kevin Porter Jr.? The domestic abuse allegations have long since stopped dogging Jason Kidd. And Chauncey Billups managed to be the coach of choice for some of the Trail Blazers, despite a well-reported allegation of sexual assault. Neither Malone, Giddey or Billups have been charged with a crime. Porter Jr. faces felony assault and strangulation charges in New York. Kidd pleaded guilty to spousal abuse in 2001, but his wife, who divorced him in 2007, claimed she suffered years of physical abuse at Kidd’s hands.

The only person who has spoken out about the NBA’s problem with the way players treat women is Charles Barkley, and that is a sentence I never thought I would write. “​​There’s been a couple disturbing incidents of domestic violence in the NBA right now, what we doing to address that?” Barkley asked Commissioner Adam Silver on the NBA’s opening night. “Because you can’t put your hands on women, man. And we should be on the forefront in sports. So what are we, as a league, going to do about that?”

To be clear, it’s not that I believe the rates of violence against women in the NBA, or pro sports in general, are any higher than those in the general population, where too often violence against women goes unreported, uncharged or unpunished. It’s that pro sports leagues, through their actions, send the subtle message to their fans that this stuff is not all that important. When pressed by Barkley about the NBA being at the forefront of sports in the conversation about domestic violence, Silver responded that the league was not in competition with other sports to be at the “forefront” of the issue.

But why wouldn’t the NBA want to be at the forefront? Wouldn’t that be something to be proud of? Is Giddey really so important to the league that he can’t sit for a few days while the investigation is ongoing?

Worse, some of the league’s biggest stars, known for speaking out on all manner of social and political issues, are reliably silent when it comes to talking about sexual assault and domestic abuse. Steve Kerr often uses his platform to advocate for political issues, like gun control, but I’ve never seen or heard him address the problem of violence against women. Even a Google search for “Gregg Popovich” and “domestic violence” or “sexual assault” came up empty.

The league’s biggest star, Lebron James, is even worse. James called out sexism, racism and misogyny in the wake of the allegations against former Suns and Phoenix owner Robert Saver, but he made a point to talk to a suspended Miles Bridges after a Lakers- Hornets game, drawing the ire of many fans. In 2022, James said he was no longer a Cowboys fan because of the way Jerry Jones treated players who kneeled during the national anthem, but he has publicly supported a post-suspension Deshaun Watson on X.

“Yessir D Watson!! Another one,” James tweeted. “That boy getting his rhythm back!”

I understand (and fully support) a fan not wanting to be associated with Jerry Jones, but to see Deshaun Watson as an acceptable option is deeply problematic. Because the message players and coaches who ignore allegations of violence against women send to young men and women who hang on their every word is that this stuff isn’t important, that women aren’t believable, and that none of this is that big of a deal. Women are crazy, am I right? And if you have any doubt that that message has gotten through loud and clear, just go check out the replies on X any time an NBA player is accused of domestic abuse or sexual assault. Go check out what young men have to say about Giddey right now.

I have plenty of doubt that the NBA will do anything remotely meaningful in handling the Giddey investigation. After all, they fumbled away the chance to talk to young fans about consent back when Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault in 2003.

Most likely, the minor involved in the Giddey scandal will refuse to cooperate and the league will throw up their hands and say “We tried!” And, within a few months, people who point out that, if the allegations are true, Giddey deserved a lengthy suspension will be accused of “bringing up the past” and being “haters” and will be eventually shouted down. That’s the way it always goes in pro sports. Because while plenty of women love the NBA, the NBA does not love them back.

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