Lawrence Taylor's Trial By Media Fire

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''Athlete caught soliciting the services of a prostitute'' is reported so often, the story is almost a cliché. However, in the case of former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, the typical narrative took a gut-wrenching turn: The New York Times reports that there is a 16-year-old girl involved, who allegedly was forced to sleep with Taylor against her will. Upon his arrest, the Hall of Famer was charged with soliciting prostitution and third-degree rape, due to the age of the victim. The girl (identified in court as ''CF'') alleges that she was brought to Taylor by Rasheed Davis, a 35-year-old man now charged with endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful imprisonment and assault—the last charge stemming from CF's visible black eye.


According to the alleged victim, she received the black eye for initially refusing to have sex with Taylor. Taylor's attorney, Arthur Aidala, has denied all charges, and Taylor himself insists that he and CF never had sexual contact. Only Taylor, CF and Davis know what really happened. But does the truth even matter in our current media environment?

Details surrounding the case are hazy, but neither Taylor nor CF is finding any kind of safe harbor. As soon as this news was announced, the rush to judgment began on forums, chat rooms, blogs and supposed news outlets.

For CF, the fallout was swift and brutal. Many people did not even take the time to familiarize themselves with the basic facts of the case before brandishing the old misogynist trope that prostitutes cannot be raped, since it would be considered ''theft of services.'' Such a mindset dehumanizes women who are sex workers. Other defenses of Taylor have revolved around the typical charges women face when trying to come forward about acts of sexual violence: Blog commenters and Twitter users launched the normal volley of questions about what CF was wearing, what she was doing in the hotel room in the first place, why she was in a hotel room with him if she didn't want to have sex. Once again, a lack of understanding of the case is demonstrated—Taylor was arrested along with Rasheed Davis, who is charged with forcing CF to have sex with Taylor against her will.

According to police reports, CF had a black eye, which she said occurred before her contact with Taylor. Finally, the idea that L.T. didn't ''really rape'' CF is also gaining traction online. However, New York law makes it clear that a minor cannot consent to sexual intercourse with an adult (hence the third-degree charge); and even if she was of the age of majority, Davis allegedly coerced her into having sexual intercourse. The decision was never hers to make. Any way you slice it, it is rape. Allegedly.

For Lawrence Taylor, nothing was out of bounds once he stepped off the football field.

The greatest linebacker in Giants history has been a crackhead, deadbeat dad and convicted tax cheat. He struggled with sobriety, responsibility and fidelity - and contemplated suicide.

For Taylor, a narrative of guilt was constructed before the trial is even underway.

In matters of sexual assault and coercion—the severe allegations leveled at Taylor and the ongoing trauma 16-year-old CF will grapple with for the rest of her life—it would be reasonable to expect that our national conversation about this issue would be somber with the weight of these issues. However, if what is currently happening in our conversations online and in the media continues, we do both Lawrence Taylor and CF a grave disservice by allowing our assumptions and ignorance to preempt the quest for justice.

Latoya Peterson is editor of Racialicious.

Latoya Peterson is a hip-hop feminist, anti-racist activist and deputy editor of Fusion’s Voices section, opining on pop culture, news, video games and everything that makes life worth living.