COMMENT: By Lizzie Marvelly
Black Cap Scott Kuggeleijn was found not guilty. The New Zealand justice system determined that it was not possible to ascertain beyond reasonable doubt that Scott Kuggeleijn held a young woman down and raped her. That's what a not guilty verdict means. That the jury could not be certain – beyond reasonable doubt – whether a crime had been committed.
It does not mean anything more than that. That, however, is apparently enough for NZ Cricket.
As a fan, and a former player, I couldn't be more disappointed in our national cricket organisation. As a young girl, I started swinging a yellow Kiwi Cricket bat when I was 7, and later became the captain of my first XI in my final year at school. Like many women, I've spent numerous hours over the years playing and watching the game. Up and down the country, Kiwi women are fans, players and parents of players. NZ Cricket has let those women down.
Arguably, it has let itself down.
Being a national sporting representative should mean something. Black Caps, White Ferns, All Blacks, Black Ferns…. They are all role models. They're the people that thousands of Kiwi kids look up to. Being selected to represent your country should be a peerless honour, and with that honour comes a higher standard of conduct to live up to, and greater personal responsibility.
There are thousands of young men who would love nothing more than to be selected to be a Black Cap. There will be a handful of players who are so close to selection for the national side that they spend their every waking moment training, honing, and slogging away in the nets, on the pitch, and at the gym. I feel sorry for those young men. In my view, their rightful place has been usurped by someone whose conduct should've rendered him unsuitable for selection.
Just because someone hasn't been convicted in a court of law doesn't mean that they are worthy of a highly sought-after career in the public spotlight. Harvey Weinstein hasn't been convicted. Nor have the Roast Busters. The idea that simply not having been convicted of rape could be used as some kind of barometer for the suitability of a candidate for high-profile positions shows just how low the bar is at organisations like NZ Cricket.
Yes, Scott Kuggeleijn was found not guilty on the charge of sexual violation by way of rape, but he himself admitted to the kind of behaviour that should be utterly unacceptable to national sporting organisations. For a start, he persistently badgered a young woman for sex. And yes, "persistent" is a word he himself used. In a text message he wrote to the complainant, Kuggeleijn said, "looking back I was pretty persistent". When Crown Prosecutor Jacinda Foster asked Kuggeleijn whether he was frustrated that the complainant wouldn't do what he wanted her to do, he replied, "I s'pose it was slightly frustrating, yeah."
Kuggeleijn's description of the complainant should give any organisation wanting to be seen to be as respecting women further pause.
"I may have said that she looks like she likes penis. I may have said that ... she was talking about things that a lot of women don't talk about ... she was dressed quite revealing ... [she had] a short skirt and pink top with her breasts out. She wasn't dressed conservatively like when she came to court on the first day. She was dressed very provocatively," he said on the stand in court.
As if what the complainant was wearing had any relevance to the charges Kuggeleijn was defending in court… Sadly, in a society infected with victim-blaming narratives, Kuggeleijn's words played straight into the tired old tropes about female sexuality. Those tropes were called upon alarmingly frequently during both trials.
Some of the questions asked of the complainant by Kuggeleijn's lawyer will be burned into my mind forever. They included, "Were you saying no but not meaning no?" and "Did you not recognise that telling him you were on the pill in those circumstances was you telling him you wanted to have sex with him?"
Then there was Kuggeleijn's statement that the complainant was "looking for male attention".
A not guilty verdict does not suddenly erase those statements. It doesn't make them go away. It doesn't make that young woman a liar. As much as NZ Cricket may like to delude itself otherwise, for a number of New Zealanders – some of whom have taken to protesting at Black Caps games – it doesn't make Scott Kuggeleijn miraculously worthy of the honour of representing us on the international sporting stage.
And before the inevitable proclamations about Kuggeleijn being "the best man for the job" derail the conversation, let's remember that team sport is not simply about being the best individual player. Team sport is about being the best team. Players like Jesse Ryder have learnt this the hard way, when their personal struggles have rendered their selections untenable and contrary to the best interests of the team.
I wonder what Kuggeleijn's teammates think about all this. I wonder whether they've discussed Kuggeleijn's selection with their wives, partners, sisters, mothers and daughters. I wonder whether the rest of the Black Caps feel that it's okay to repeatedly pressure a woman to have sex, then defend themselves by saying that she was dressed "provocatively".
Whether they want to acknowledge it or not, by having Kuggeleijn in the national squad, NZ Cricket is effectively saying behaviour like that is no barrier to representing the organisation, or indeed, the country.
In my opinion, it's Kuggeleijn's own admissions and conduct in court that makes him unsuitable to represent New Zealand. NZ Cricket owes New Zealand women an explanation, and an apology.