On February 7, 2020, the Berkeley High School (BHS) boys’ soccer team forfeited their highly-anticipated game against rival high school Bishop O’Dowd. This happened shortly after a list of students accused of rape and labeled as “sus” appeared on the wall of a girls bathroom at BHS, sparking a conversation about rape culture. On Wednesday, February 19, students presented a list of demands to the Berkeley school board and superintendent. One of these demands was that BUSD includes more sexual harassment and assault education for all coaches and players on BHS sports teams in efforts to reduce toxic masculinity.
Members of the soccer team interviewed for this article asked to remain anonymous. According to one player, “After everyone found out about the allegations made about certain players on the team, [they] had a series of meetings as a team to try to figure out how to move on.” They weren’t able to make a decision as to what to do before the start of the O’Dowd game, so the coaches decided to cancel the game to give the team more time to decide how to proceed. “For the O’Dowd game, a lot of the players were not in the best mental state to play a game and some players did not feel they were willing to play with certain individuals,” said another member of the team. “The coach made an executive decision to forfeit the game and have the team regroup and basically stabilize.”
Since forfeiting the O’Dowd game, two players have quit the team. The team had two regular season games remaining, one of which was senior night, and won both. They finished with a regular season record of 14-4-4 and in first place for league standings. The team was seeded lower in the North Coast Section (NCS) tournament due to the forfeit of the O’Dowd game, but won their first game of the tournament 2-0 against Freedom High School on Wednesday, February 19. They went on to win the second and third games of the NCS tournament, allowing them to advance to the finals against Montgomery High School.
At the School Board meeting, students expressed the need for athletes who have been proven guilty of sexual assault to be kicked off of their respective teams, and one of the demands was to instate a program called Coaching Boys Into Men. According to the Coaching Boys Into Men website, “Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM) is the only evidence-based prevention program that trains and motivates high school coaches to teach their young male athletes healthy relationship skills and that violence never equals strength.”
With this program, coaches lead short weekly activities with their players that focus on responsibility, respect, and relationship abuse. According to the website, one of the reasons this program was created was that, since athletes can often be popular and influential among their peers, it’s important that they become good role models for other students.
During a discussion with BHS students at Tuesday’s walkout, Superintendent Brent Stephens said that he intends to pursue some of the requests in the budgeting process for next year.