By Aaron DeLoria, Cazenovia College Freshman
Don McPherson may have been a professional quarterback at one time, but now he focuses on a group he believes causes many of the problems in our society: men.
McPherson, a former professional football player and Syracuse University star, addressed the topic of bullying and men’s violence against women at Cazenovia’s Catherine Cummings Theatre on Oct. 16. This presentation was courtesy of the Cazenovia Forum lecture series.
He also spoke at Cazenovia High School earlier in the day.
McPherson gained national recognition after leading the Syracuse Orangemen to an undefeated season in 1987, followed by winning the Maxwell Award and finishing second in the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top college football player. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988, and retired from professional football in 1994.
Since his retirement, McPherson has become director of Sport in Society’s Mentors in Violence Prevention Program and a national advocate for prevention of sexual abuse and violence. He has lectured for hundreds of college campuses across the country, as well to both community and national sports and violence prevention programs.
He began his talk by emphasizing how he wanted the night to turn into a conversation. He encouraged the audience to try to find common ground on the issues discussed.
“I think that we’ve sometimes lost our ability to have a critical, honest conversation about difficult issues,” he said.
According to McPherson, a “toxic masculinity” is the cause of most bullying and violence against women. He discussed the classic “you throw like a girl” and “you act like a girl” remarks and said that this mentality leads to men mistreating women and looking at women in a negative way.
“We don’t raise boys to be men, we raise them not to be women,” McPherson said.
He also talked about identifying himself as a feminist and how people have often questioned why he would call himself that. He related the ist suffix to words like environmentalist and economist — words meaning that one cares about the environment or cares about the economy. “If I’m a feminist, I care about women, and I think we should do a lot to protect women,” McPherson said.
A large part of his talk related sports to masculinity and masculinity to violence against women. He called out fellow athletes, such as Ray Rice, Kobe Bryant, and Jameis Winston, who had all been accused, but not convicted, of either rape or violence against women. According to McPherson, these players haven’t been held accountable. He said there is a culture of silence among men who don’t want to hold other men accountable for their actions.
This led him to talk about why he “loves sports” but is not “a sports fan.” McPherson said he enjoys watching young people compete and put in hard work to get better. However, he believes that professional sports organizations put “criminals” on the field in their quest to make money. He said that this action “flies in the face of what sports are all about.”
McPherson’s lecture was crowd-pleasing as he cracked many jokes and told some entertaining stories in parallel to his serious topics. When he finished speaking he opened up the floor for comments and questions, and remained long after most of the crowd left, talking with a group talk with sports management students Cazenovia College.
The Cazenovia Forum’s next speaker will be Adrian Karatnycky, a specialist on the Ukraine-Russia conflict. This lecture will take place next year and will kick off the 2015 lecture series.