Women worldwide have to think twice about coming forward when they feel wronged by sportsmen.

Of all the reactions arising from the investigation into the Chiefs' stripper scandal, the most apt was issued by the woman involved in the incident.

"I am disappointed but not surprised," said Scarlette, after New Zealand Rugby uncovered no evidence to support her allegations against a group of players.

Many in this country must have felt the same way: discouraged by the lack of culpability for any Chief but far from shocked the saga will be of no detriment to the players' careers.

That, unfortunately, is the way these stories often conclude and, without casting aspersions on the findings of NZR's general counsel, being disbelieved or silenced is an all too familiar outcome when women experience the dark side of the sporting world.


This week alone, the New York Giants are heading into the new NFL season without Josh Brown, a kicker suspended one game upon the revelation of a 2015 domestic violence arrest and charge. The status of the charge is currently unclear but Brown will be back in week two.

In the English Premier League, Danny Simpson will take the field for reigning champions Leicester City, having incurred no ban after last year being found guilty of assaulting the mother of his child. Instead of missing matches, Simpson was sentenced to 300 hours of community service, which in May was replaced by a curfew when press intrusion prevented the footballer from completing the programme.

And closer to home, Julian Savea will tonight start against Argentina, an All Black who in 2013 was charged with assaulting his then-partner, a charge subsequently withdrawn when the wing completed a police diversion programme.

None of these incidents is identical but, together, the trend formed is one that should trouble fans. And although no outside observer can assign to these athletes guilt or innocence, it's a pattern that hardly encourages victims of future crimes to speak out.

After all, a sportsman can time and again be accused of an abhorrent act and soon be allowed to resume their high-paid and high-profile profession, the episode rendered little more than a footnote or, even worse, the first page in a redemptive tale. What kind of message does that send to those who insist they were wronged?

It's much more challenging to ascertain players whose careers suffered from committing crimes against women. A disgraced Ray Rice remains locked out of the NFL, but his place on an unofficial blacklist was earned only after video emerged showing the former Baltimore Raven punching his fiancee in the face and knocking her to an elevator floor.

Before, when previous footage merely captured Rice dragging her unconscious body from that elevator? Why, there could have been myriad explanations. The NFL decided to issue a two-game suspension.

Greg Hardy, alleged to have assaulted his partner, is another former football star mercifully unemployed. Yet that status arrived only after Hardy last year proved a toxic presence playing for the Dallas Cowboys, when a civil settlement had spared a suspension but when almost every sickening detail of his alleged attack had been made public.

Now, no Chiefs player was accused of actions akin to some of the aforementioned names. But the end result was essentially the same. A woman who felt harmed eventually found her voice unheard.

And with every dose of lenient discipline, with every community service sentence quashed and every investigation that leaves "disappointed" an alleged victim, the suggestion is only enhanced that sport still functions within a culture that can be poisonous for women.

Which, when considering that those aggrieved in future will surely think twice about the point of pursuing any recourse, is a suggestion increasingly difficult to deny.