When Brock Turner was released from jail today after serving half of his six-month sentence for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman, headlines referring to him as a Stanford swimmer sparked renewed controversy.
Associated Press, USA Today, TIME, CNN, Sports Illustrated, MSNBC, and the BBC were criticized by readers for failing to immediately identify Turner as someone who had committed sexual assault.
TIME referred to Turner as a swimmer and didn’t note that he had committed a sexual assault until the third line of the story. The magazine called him a “former Stanford student and star swimmer.”
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) September 2, 2016
“I am no longer a swimmer, a student, a resident of California, or the product of the work that I put in to accomplish the goals that I set out in the first 19 years of my life,” Turner said in a court statement.
During Turner’s trial in the spring, the news media drew criticism for lauding his swimming accomplishments at the elite California school.
Than former Stanford swimmer and rapist… https://t.co/NY14QB1PLV
— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) September 2, 2016
Who needs "Stanford swimmer" clarification in the headline but is aware of what he's in jail for? https://t.co/4kuOk0c9xj
— German Lopez (@germanrlopez) September 2, 2016
— Debi Staron (@HollywoodDebi) September 1, 2016
— Danielle Campoamor (@DCampoamor) September 2, 2016
One problem with calls to refer to Turner as a rapist is that he was convicted of sexual assault and intent to commit rape, but not rape. Media organizations may be exercising caution so as not to misidentify Turner’s crime.
At Bitch Media, Dahlia Grossman-Heinze wrote:
Because Turner was a star swimmer at Stanford, coverage of his trial received the “once-promising future” treatment. In reporting on sexual assault, media outlets show a pattern of focusing on how the assailant has a bright future and how the current case could ruin his upward trajectory — most articles about Turner include a nice portrait of him instead of his mugshot.
At Cosmopolitan magazine, Prachi Gupta wrote:
The rush to humanize Turner and grant him a lenient sentence is an example of a system that elevates the voices and experiences of white men, and dismisses violence against women. As a young, successful white male athlete, Turner benefits from a level of compassion and empathy rarely expressed for any other group of people in America, a benefit of the doubt that people of color and women rarely get.
So curious why this is framed as "Stanford swimmer" and not "convicted of sexual assault". Or maybe even both. https://t.co/pjUugixKtN
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) September 2, 2016
Hey TIME, was he in jail for swimming?https://t.co/X9rPQZt9FN
— Anup Kaphle (@AnupKaphle) September 2, 2016
@MSNBC Wasn't the " Stanford Swimmer" convicted of rape? Call him a rapist, not a swimmer.
— Deborah Rodeheaver (@debr3322) September 2, 2016
By "former Stanford swimmer" you meant RAPIST correct? https://t.co/Q5abTgw1O3
— B L A C A D E M I C (@profjalewis) September 2, 2016
— Frank Carey (@frankcarey1967) September 2, 2016
Tamir Rice labeled as a thug.
Brock Turner still referred to as Stanford swimmer.
And get people wonder why #BlackLivesMatter
— work of art (@tammie_grier) September 2, 2016
I hope today's media headlines say "convicted rapist released after 3 months" and not "Stanford ex-swimmer…" #BrockTurner
— Sheila (@shelearn) September 2, 2016
@CNN wish reports would stop naming him as a former swimmer. Its Brock Turner the rapist that also happened to go to Stanford once
— Bethany (@BethanySquid) September 2, 2016
— Kelly Green (@brandcoachkelly) September 2, 2016
STOP. CALLING. HIM. A. STANFORD. SWIMMER. HE. IS. A. RAPIST.
— Courtney Charroux (@cacharroux) September 2, 2016