“Sport is a Beautiful Platform for Prevention”: How Roll Red Roll Is Changing the Culture

Image of multiple participants' video screens during the Zoom panel discussion

On Wednesday, April 29, nearly 150 activists, athletes, coaches, and prevention practitioners attended RALIANCE’s panel discussion about the documentary, Roll Red Roll, which chronicles the 2012 high school rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, and exposes the mentality that fuels destructive attitudes and behaviors that lead to sexual violence. 

Facilitated by RALIANCE’s director of prevention David S. Lee, the panel included Roll Red Roll director Nancy Schwartzman, former NFL player and sexual violence prevention activist Reggie Walker, founder and CEO of Open Door Abuse Awareness & Prevention and coach Valencia Peterson (Coach V), and founder of Men Challenging Joe Samalin.

Passion, anger, forgiveness, and empowerment fueled the discussion as Coach V shared the power of transformation the film has had on student athletes. “It empowered them to believe that they could be the kind of men that won’t be bystanders.” She continued by sharing, “I could watch my room of football players go into an ‘aha’ moment.” One such player who attended the session was so inspired that he wrote his thesis on the subject.

The chat lit up with gratitude, compassion, and encouragement as Reggie Walker openly shared his story of being sexually assaulted. Reflecting on his football career, he recalled the high standards that coaches and teammates had set for one another, which ultimately dictated everyone’s behavior. He expressed the importance of understanding that “the culture of the community was just as important to this [rape] happening as anything else.”

Using the movie as a teaching tool in countless environments, Joe Samalin exposed the everyday behaviors that perpetuate sexual harassment and assault. He challenged the audience to be more accountable for ourselves and each other, asking: “Are you aware of how you talk? What is your behavior?  What behaviors do you let happen around you?”

Providing a solution for change, Nancy Schwartzman shared that everyone, to some degree, is steeped in patriarchy. The onus of cultural change and preventing violence is on everyone, not just on victims and survivors. “What’s been amazing about touring [with the film] is that I’ve had so many men in the audience, athletes in the audience — fathers really step up.” Concluding, she acknowledged, “There is hope in people wanting to change this [culture], because now they can see [the problem].”

RALIANCE capped off Sexual Assault Awareness Month by demonstrating the vital role sports play in shaping and influencing athletes’ values and behaviors. As Coach V says, “Sport is a beautiful platform for prevention.”

If you missed this discussion, you can still catch up on all the panelists’ insights by checking out the full recording on RALIANCE’s YouTube page.    

View the text chat of the discussion here.

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