We play for the Amherst College men’s soccer team, the defending NCAA Division III National Champions.
Our locker room consists of 31 guys, ages 18 to 23. We come from 13 different states and five different countries. We grew up with different religions, ethnicities, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds. We study political science, economics, computer science, biology, history, physics and black studies. We grew up playing on countless different clubs, traveling teams, and high-school soccer teams – each with its own distinct culture.
Here is what we talk about in our locker room: We talk about the impossible chemistry midterm exam we had that morning, the new idea for our senior thesis, the buffalo chicken wraps for lunch, and how the other teams in the league did that weekend. We also talk about our Saturday nights, our personal relationships and, of course, the girls in our lives.
But, despite our diverse backgrounds, upbringings and interests, we cannot imagine one of our 30 guys ever making or condoning, in our private locker room, comments similar to Donald Trump’s disgusting statements about sexually assaulting women.
We do not know what locker room Donald Trump uses. It clearly doesn’t represent the one we use every day. Having had the opportunity to play teams from up and down the east coast, as well as teams from Texas and Iowa in the national tournament, we believe it’s not their locker rooms either.
Our locker room also differs from Donald Trump’s locker room in another respect. It is just down the hall from the locker room of the Amherst women’s soccer team. We are good friends with these women; we practice every day on the same field; we watch their games, and they watch ours. We see each other as peers.
We do not know what locker room Donald Trump uses. It clearly doesn’t represent the one we use every day.
As a sports team, we have found success by valuing the ideal of doing the right thing even when no one is watching. This ideal applies not just to athletic competition, but equally to respecting people: respect is not simply an act you put on for people in the room with you; it is how you speak about them when they are not present.
We know that college sports athletes throughout the country have been involved in many cases of sexual abuse. It is absolutely unacceptable that 1 in 5 women on college campuses experience sexual abuse. This needs to change.
One part of creating this necessary change is changing how women are talked about – both in public and in private. Our team is by no means perfect on these fronts, but we want to be part of the solution.
We strive to not only keep this kind of offensive talk out of our locker rooms, we also try to actively prevent it elsewhere. We and the other teams at Amherst have made it a priority to speak out and campaign against sexual violence. Our team facilitates sexual respect workshops, participates in campus dialogues about sexual assault and has promoted awareness projects by helping to publicly share stories and messages written by victims of sexual violence. We know this is only a start – our team, and other teams need to do so much more to make our campus and our community safer and more respectful places for all women.
Donald Trump defended his comments by saying, “I’m not proud of my locker room talk. But this world has serious problems. We need serious leaders.”
Serious leaders take the issue of sexual assault seriously. Sexual assault is a crime. Bragging about sexual assault can never be excused as being what boys and men talk about behind closed doors. To excuse such behavior is to perpetuate a culture of abuse of power that has no place in 21st-century America.
If Donald Trump wants to know what actually is said in real locker rooms, he is welcome to visit ours to understand how real men speak about and treat women.
David Lander is a senior at Amherst College and a member of the Amherst Men’s Soccer Team. This op-ed speaks on behalf of the team.