Fantasy football season is in full swing and is more talked-about than ever with leagues like Fan Duel and Draft Kings breaking advertising records to bombard NFL fans with commercials. It’s competitive fun for the estimated 19 million people who compete in various online leagues in the U.S. annually, but there’s one thing a lot of fantasy fans are laughing about that really isn’t funny at all.
We’re talking about rape.
For some reason, the word “rape” is thrown around in fantasy discussions as often as football terms like “touchdown” and “penalty.” It’s used between friends and strangers online. It’s used to describe the outcomes of games and the fairness of trades. It’s laughed about and even bragged about, and it’s all incredibly irresponsible and insensitive. And, not surprisingly, it’s being used almost exclusively by men (80 percent of fantasy team managers are men), who are much less likely to become victims of sexual assault compared to women.
There are numerous Facebook groups and forums where avid fantasy players chat and ask for advice, specifically about trades and which of their players to play or bench on a given week. Members will post the details of a trade someone in their league is proposing and others will weigh in with their opinions. If it’s a bad trade, there are usually people quick to comment that it’s “trade rape.” A trade that leads to a loss may eventually be deemed a “trade rape,” as well.
The following posts appeared recently in a Facebook group for fantasy football advice:
Successful “trade rapes” are bragged about and congratulated. I’ve read the phrases “fantasy football rape van” and “put on the rape sauce.” I’ve even seen one online commenter call himself a wolf for his “trade rape” abilities and another track trades and announce the “Fantasy Football Rape of the Week.” One player named his fantasy team “The Bill Cosby Sleepers.”
Beyond “trade rape,” there’s also mention of teams raping other teams.
And competitors raping each other.
In fantasy football, rape is treated as a joke, complete with memes and photoshop. And don’t forget #rape.
When fantasy football fans say they were “trade raped,” what they mean is that they were “swindled” or “ripped off.” When they say they want to rape their opponent or want one team to rape another, they mean they want to “defeat,” “clobber,” “overpower” or “triumph over” them.
“Rape” is not a substitution for any of these words.
Rape has never been funny and never will be, and at a time when the U.S. and other countries all over the world are taking a real stand against sexual violence, it’s shocking how widespread rape jokes are in a sports culture that’s 19 million strong. This problem is really easy to solve, though. All you have to do is use a different word to trash talk, and you won’t be trivializing one of the greatest violent threats women (and many men, too) face.