It’s been a week since sports site SB Nation published its 12,000 word opus on serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw and the shit hit the fan.
The site was roundly criticized for running an article that took a sympathetic look at the former police officer who was convicted on 18 felony charges including rape, sodomy, and sexual battery, and sentenced to 263 years in prison. Instead of focusing on his victims, the profile zeroed in on Holtzclaw’s failed bid to play professional football, arguing, “Without an NFL dream to aspire to, perhaps he felt that his sacrifices had been for nothing. As a football player, he had believed he was in charge of his own destiny, now he was stripped of his power.”
Within hours of hitting the web, the article was removed from the SB Nation site and apologies were issued. Spencer Hall, the site’s editorial director, called the story “a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process” and “tone-deaf, insensitive to the victims of sexual assault and rape, and wrongheaded in approach and execution.”
Although Hall’s statement contradicted an almost gleeful leaked email from SB Nation editor Glenn Stout, proclaiming the Holtzclaw profile would be a “nuanced portrait” of the convicted rapist that “people will be talking about,” the site remained apologetic while it was roundly criticized for publishing the article.
Now, Jeff Arnold, the man responsible for penning the controversial look at the disgraced cop has finally broken his silence….and apparently, he still doesn’t get it.
“I have had a chance to reflect on the profile of convicted rapist Daniel Holtzclaw I worked on for two months in collaboration with the editors at SB Nation. Now that I have some distance on the piece, I see that it presented a lopsided account that failed to acknowledge the suffering of Mr. Holtzclaw’s victims. For that, I apologize,” he wrote.
While Arnold acknowledged he should have spent more time with Holtzclaw’s victims and detailed their horrific assaults, he continued to argue that his profile of Holtzclaw was somehow necessary.
I hoped to present a more fully-rounded portrait of Mr. Holtzclaw than had appeared in the press. I hoped to explore the question of what had happened to this once-promising young man. I and my editor at SB Nation hoped to find possible answers as to what could have led to him to become a convicted rapist and sexual predator. In the end, though, I produced a piece that had massive shortcomings.
Here’s the thing: Holtzclaw’s entire defense, and the reason he targeted vulnerable Black women in the first place, was predicated on the fact that he was not only innocent, but also the women accusing him of rape were lying because they were too “street wise” to be assaulted in the first place.
To hope to write a “fully-rounded portrait” of a man who attempted to reduce his victims to disposable and Black is not only problematic, but also quite sick. Moreover, the willingness to wax poetic about what turned Holtzclaw, a so-called nice guy, into a serial predator is far more consideration than what Black victims typically receive. Instead, readers are often told Black victims were “no angels,” or came from broken homes, or had weed in their system when they were killed–they aren’t memorialized in glossy Rolling Stone covers or given the benefit of doubt.
Why anyone thought Holtzclaw deserved a “nuanced” profile not only speaks volumes about their own lack of judgement, but also reinforces the idea that the lives of Black victims just don’t matter that much at all.