These aren’t random incidents we are seeing. No, it represents an epidemic of massive proportions. How is it that we continue to debate whether or not college athletes should be paid, when another major football program has made headlines for sexual assault?
First things first. I read about the most recent case of campus rape late last week as I perused the ESPN newsfeed before drifting off to sleep. Buried beneath NFL free agency, the Stanley Cup and NBA playoffs, a headline piqued my curiosity. I couldn’t power my way through the entirety of the article, as I was too disgusted to read of yet another major university with a sexual assault scandal surrounding their football program.
One and four girls are being sexually assaulted on college campuses. If I hear another reporter call what happened at Baylor “sexual misconduct” I’m going to have a meltdown. Lets call it what it is: RAPE. This is not a Baylor problem, it constitutes a national tragedy. Our very own University of Montana swept a rape scandal associated with their football program and beloved Griz Nation under the rug, protecting football players over the safety, welfare and rights of their female students. That’s in little Missoula, Montana—smalltime, compared to Division 1 programs across the country. If people think this is only occurring at a handful of colleges they are delusional.
Look at the statistics. One in four girls. This is completely and utterly unacceptable. We hero-worship these athletes, creating a dangerous and disturbing environment where girls don’t feel safe reporting to police that they’ve been raped or sexually assaulted by a team member. How could they when the repercussions for their courage results in a campus wide witch-hunt, shaming them for the atrocity that they–not the football players–have endured?
This past March, I watched the NCAA tournament, blown away when CBS sports broadcasters sung the praises of one Rasheed Sulaimon, who had been dismissed from Duke’s basketball program for allegations of sexual assault. Clearly, Maryland wasn’t too worried about the allegations from two separate Duke University female students, which led Coach Krzyzewski to dismiss Sulaimon from the program while stating that he “repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations.”
Are you serious? Addressing sexual assault is now classified as struggling to meet necessary obligations? Did the University of Montana’s Griz Nation see a decline in attendance after a sexual assault scandal rocked the entire city of Missoula, leading author Jon Kraukauer to write an expose of a book about the city, university and both campus and city police mishandling of multiple sexual assaults involving the university’s beloved football program? Did the famed Cameron Crazies protest Coach K for failing to address his players’ sexual misconduct when he first learned of it, and later white-washing it with coach-speak? Nope, they didn’t miss a beat.
And now this, at Baylor. The president of the University, Kenneth Starr, who, according to reports, worked beside the Baylor athletic director and head football coach, sweeping a sexual assault scandal under the rug to protect the integrity of the football program. And Starr is not fired—he is reassigned? This would be laughable if it weren’t so egregious. (Side-note: A week after the story broke, Starr resigned (6/1/16) as Baylor Chancellor as a “matter of conscience.”)
Baylor asked Brittany Griner to stay quiet about her sexuality, fearing that it would damage the reputation of their prestigious Baptist university while tainting Christian values. And Kenneth Starr is re-assigned to chancellor, and until he resigned, was scheduled to teach law classes this fall? Outrageous!
Are we really ready to accept the fact that ONE in FOUR girls are sexually assaulted on college campuses nationwide? If not, let’s stop talking about paying college athletes, and start addressing this national crisis.
This is a watershed human rights issue, one that we must stop ignoring. For our daughters, sisters, wives, nieces, cousins—for ALL the women in our lives—it’s time to change the conversation surrounding big time college athletic programs.
First things first.
~Michael W. Leach