Whatever you might think about Aluko’s settlement, this is very likely the best she could’ve hoped for. If you’re a woman (or you present as one), and you’re harassed by a supervisor and a £80,000 settlement is your best case scenario, is it still worth tanking your career for speaking out? How about the deluge of harassment and criticism that comes afterward? This is just part of the calculus that women footballers have to make when they face their own Mark Sampsons. Fellow England internationals Lianne Sanderson and Anita Asante said as much this week when they discussed the “environment of silence,” to quote Asante, that the FA has fostered in order to protect Mark Sampson and others like him.
And of course, it’s not just players and the FA that are affected by gendered harassment and bullying. Remember Eva Carneiro? It took her nine months to reach a settlement with Chelsea after José Mourinho screamed at her in the middle of a Premier League match for daring to do her job, and then followed up by freezing her out of the first team and making her position untenable. For all the public outpouring of support she received after her mistreatment, she never worked in football again. Financial compensation notwithstanding, she, as the victim, bore the brunt of the consequences of her own harassment—which, among other things, meant the end of her career in football. Carneiro now operates a private sports medicine practice in Gibraltar. Her tormentor, meanwhile, lost his job for reasons unrelated to his creating a toxic work environment, but still found a way to “fail upward” and now prowls the touchline as manager at Manchester United.
This is important to keep in mind as more details come out about Aluko’s mistreatment. The FA has already picked a side, and it’s not the victim’s. Aluko may never play for England again. Who knows how long Chelsea will stick by her and what the long-term effect on her club career will be. The public debate will continue to heat up before, inevitably, we all stop paying attention. And when this happens again to someone else, we’ll all wonder how it happened, and why the victim didn’t speak up.