Steve Cooke

measuring the boundaries of our nation by the sun

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Does Ched Evans have a right to work as a footballer?

In 2012, the footballer Ched Evans was convicted of rape (something he has shown no remorse about). After two and a half years of his five year sentence he was released on licence and is currently trying secure employment as a professional footballer again. At first, it seemed like his former club, Sheffield United, would re-sign him, but pressure from the public, politicians, sponsors, and club patrons led the club to reconsider. That process is currently being repeated with Oldham Athletic.

An interesting element of the story is that many people have expressed anger that Ched Evans is ‘being prevented’ from working as a footballer because of his conviction. People have argued that he has served his time and has a a right to work that is being denied him.

I think this claim rests upon a misunderstanding of both what the right to work entails, and the nature of punishment and forgiveness. Ched Evans has every right to apply for jobs (subject to the conditions on his licence), but that does not entitle him to be hired by the company of his choice and in his preferred job. Nor is there any duty upon a company to hire him. Neither does simply having served his time mean that Evans is somehow less blameworthy for his actions. No private citizen is required to forgive Evans, or treat him as if he has never done wrong. The fact that he has served his time tells us only that the state has completed its punishment. Private citizens are perfectly within their rights to take the fact of his prior conduct, and his conviction, as evidence of poor character and to judge him for his actions as they see fit. Similarly, members of the public are perfectly within their rights to express their disapproval of his past conduct and to request that companies do not hire him on that basis. In fact, they have a right to condemn him for the things he has done for as long as they wish: so long as his conviction holds they neither slander nor libel him by doing so.

Ched Evans is entitled to sell his labour, but nobody is under any duty to purchase it. Ched Evans has been punished by the State, but nobody is under a duty to forgive him his wrongdoing because of this. No wrong is done to Ched Evans by private citizens exercising their right to free speech in decrying him for blameworthy acts, and no wrong is done to Ched Evans by football clubs refusing to hire him because of his wrongdoing, or because they fear financial repercussions for doing so. The only people who have done wrong in this story are Ched Evans and all of the morally repugnant people who have repeately threatened and revealed the identity of his victim.