Welcome to NCAA Fact or Fanatic, where usually at this time of year we should be making bowl game picks and anticipating the Final Four. Instead, however, we find ourselves compelled to write this emergency edition of our current series on athletes and crimes based on what’s happened in just the past couple of weeks and how that, in turn, reflects upon the NCAA, police departments, DA offices, and the universities.
Just in case you thought all of the cases we’ve been talking about are safely in the past and can be ignored as aberrations, allow us to demonstrate why it’s irresponsible to ignore the issue of college athletes and crimes. These stories can never be permitted to lapse from public consciousness, because the problem isn’t going away. It’s growing.
Allow us to lay this out for you with some of the most recent cases. We’ll start with the latest, one that seems to be following the same tragic path as the Baylor nightmare.
University of Minnesota
On September 2, 2016 a Minnesota woman reported that she was the victim of sexual assault – a gang rape if you really want to know –involving four football players who participated and six more who were involved peripherally. None of the players was arrested, although the four alleged perpetrators were suspended for a game. The local DA’s office declined to pursue charges, and the entire matter appeared to have been resolved.
But then the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity And Affirmative Action recommended that the four alleged participants and six other players be suspended for their upcoming appearance in the Holiday Bowl, and all of a sudden the entire football team announced it would “boycott” all activities – practice, travel, and playing – relating to the bowl. The team statement said specifically: “The boycott will remain effective until due process is followed and suspensions for all 10 players involved are lifted.”
But then the football team read the 80-page report the OEOAA had compiled. You can read it here for yourself (fair warning, the content is graphic and horrific in its details). It alleges that the woman was repeatedly raped, not only by current football players but by a recruit on an official visit to the Minnesota campus; that she was held down by some men while others assaulted her; that “a crowd” of men watched and cheered on the action; that as many as 20 men were involved either as witnesses or participants; and that witnesses took pictures and filmed the assault.
The report is difficult for any morally conscious person to read, describing as it does an ordeal that went on for over two hours and in such a public manner. On October 4, before the report was released, the players’ attorney Lee Hutton commented:
Fortunately, the families of these African-American student-athletes avoided a mother’s worst nightmare that their son would be wrongly accused of this type of misconduct. Now, my legal duty is to restore their tarnished reputations.
You may note that the players’ reputations are here considered so much more important than the victim’s. That definitely seemed to be the priority across the board – from the Minneapolis Police Department to the Hennepin County District Attorney’s office to the Minnesota athletic department. And definitely for the players, the teammates of the accused men. That’s triply apparent in a comment by linebacker Nick Rallis:
The most important thing is, this was not a stance about sexual misconduct. It’s not our place to say whether they committed misconduct, and those found responsible will be held accountable. I think now we’re just trying to get people to slowly understand. We are going to go down there to represent those 10 guys and how they were mistreated in the process.
Yes, of course – because the players were mistreated here.
Not the victim.
University of Oklahoma
This story, like so many in the modern age, begins with a video.
Keep in mind that Mixon hit his victim so hard, bones were broken in her face. This incident took place in 2014, but when the video was finally made public last week the resulting furor was enough to rile all of college football up.
Because Bob Stoops is an idiot.
The Oklahoma football program made Joe Mixon, who was an 18-year-old incoming freshman at the time, sit out for a season. You know – they redshirted him. That was the punishment the coaches and administrators at OU thought appropriate for a five-star, superbly conditioned, top-tier athlete whose response to a skinny little girl was to punch her so violently that bones in her face shattered.
In other words, Bob Stoops didn’t think the incident merited much more than a redshirt season – which probably benefited Mixon anyway before his first snap the following year. That was then. But now?
Let’s be frank. Stoops had no interest in kicking Joe Mixon off the Sooners’ squad in 2014 because he knew the hotly contested-for recruit would show up on someone else’s team within a matter of days. He wanted Mixon in his backfield. He didn’t give a damn about the injuries Amelia Molitor received. On December 21, 2016, this is what Stoops had to say:
Dismissal is really the only thing that is possible. A young guy having an opportunity to rehabilitate and to have some kind of discipline and come back from it is really not there anymore. Hopefully, that message goes down even to the high school level that these things are just unacceptable to any degree and there’s no recovering, I guess … It never has been acceptable. What I’m saying is there’s no recovering from these incidents really anymore.
There’s no recovering from what and for whom? No recovering for the athlete? What a pity. We already know there’s no recovering for the victim in this case, between the injuries she suffered and the harassment she underwent on the Norman campus.
There’s also no recovering for a big-time coach who watched this same video a couple of weeks after the incident and who somehow determined that he, Mixon, and the University of Oklahoma could recover with a redshirt year presented as a punishment. The Sooners’ football team certainly recovered: Mixon has rushed 168 times for 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns, and added 32 receptions for five touchdowns and 449 yards so far this season.
Stoops’s response to Mixon’s actions in 2014 were those of a coach seeking to keep a prized recruit because wins trump morality. His response two years later is so self-righteous, so smug and condescending, that it’s readily apparent that if he faced the same decision today it wouldn’t change.
He’s right. There’s no recovering from these incidents anymore. But it’s certainly easy enough to marginalize the victim in pursuit of the all-mighty W.
University of Michigan
December 21, 2016 wasn’t a great day in Michigan either. That’s when Wolverine WR Grant Perry was arraigned on multiple charges resulting from an incident that occurred in East Lansing on October 15. Perry was charged with one felony count of assaulting, battering, resisting or obstructing an officer, two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and an underage drinking charge.
The following day, the University of Michigan had this to say:
The University was made aware of the arrest of student-athlete Grant Perry earlier this fall. He was immediately suspended from all team activities at that time and missed two games. Based on the information at that time, Grant was allowed to resume team activities pending the outcome of the investigation. Upon being informed that charges would be filed, he was immediately and indefinitely suspended from all team activities until the legal process is completed.
Four Purdue players were accused of sexual assault upon two women, also Purdue students, after an October 13, 2016 incident that occurred in off-campus housing. Three of the accused players have criminal backgrounds: One had been charged with battery involving serious bodily injury, the second faced theft charges, and a third was charged with possession of marijuana.
This alleged assault was the fifth such case in four days reported to West Lafayette, Indiana police around or on the Purdue campus, but it isn’t believed to be related to any other case. So far, no one has been arrested or charged, which leaves the purported victims considering a civil suit. Mario Massillamany, of Massillamany & Jeter LLP, represents the victims.
School officials must move quickly to hold these players accountable for their actions and show these victims that their voices are being heard. Purdue and other schools have an obligation to send a message that this type of activity will not be tolerated. If there are others out there who have been victimized in this manner, we encourage them to contact us to get the justice they deserve.
University of Southern California
USC linebacker Osa Masina pled not guilty on December 16 to charges that he sexually assaulted a friend in Utah. He was charged with forcible rape and two counts of forcible sodomy which are first-degree felonies. Allegedly, Masina gave the victim a combination of alcohol, marijuana, and Xanax and raped her while she was unconscious. A video of the assault was taken by Masina and sent to the victim’s ex-boyfriend through Snapchat.
Deseret News Utah reported: “It wasn’t until her ex-boyfriend’s father contacted her own father, suggesting something may have happened to the woman at the party, that the woman said she reported the assault to her parents. After that, they went to police. Asked on cross-examination why she hadn’t attempted to contact police sooner, the woman said she was scared.”
Masina’s family posted a $250,000 bond. Masina is on interim suspension from USC, has been forced to vacate his campus housing, and cannot enter the USC campus without prior permission and an escort.
Masina and a teammate, Don Hill (also suspended from the university), are also under investigation for a similar incident in California two weeks prior to the alleged rape in Utah, with the same victim and the same modus operandi – the booze, pot, and pills. Masina’s attorney, Greg Skordas, had this to say:
“I haven’t been told anything on the record about the California case, but I’ve been told generally and been led to believe generally there won’t be charges filed on anything that happened in California,” Skordas said.
Though he stopped short of calling the encounter with the woman in Utah consensual, Skordas said, “My understanding of the conduct of what occurred here wouldn’t have constituted a crime under Utah law.”
He added: “I think that the difference in accounts of what happened are maybe not as distinct as you might think, but I think the way both individuals perceived things is quite different.”
For Your Viewing Displeasure
In 2015, Florida State University quarterback De’Andre Johnson punched a woman in the face at a Tallahassee bar. Johnson was ultimately dismissed from the team.
Mullen and Mississippi State ultimately determined that a one-game suspension against perceived cupcake opponent South Alabama was sufficient punishment for Simmons’s arrest in the March incident. In one of the great beyotch-slaps of karma, South Alabama subsequently upset MSST 21-20.
And Here’s the Latest
Texas A&M WR Speedy Noil was arrested on December 20. Five grams of marijuana turned into an arrest on possession charges, a $2,000 bond, and Noil’s suspension from the team.
Youngstown State RB Martin Ruiz was pulled over on a standard traffic stop after he made an illegal turn. The police detected the odor of marijuana, found a residue suspected to be marijuana – and a loaded gun in the glove compartment. Ruiz was charged with illegal possession of a firearm.
That’s just in the past couple of weeks. We never have to look far to find college athletes being arrested for crimes ranging from possession to full-fledged rape. Every NCAA program will tell you that they have guest speakers, seminars, classes, and meetings with their players to prevent these athletes from breaking the law. And yet, not a week goes by without another report, another arrest, another crime that puts schools in the position of wondering which is the priority – getting the W on the field or selling the university’s soul. All too frequently, the soul is thrown out like refuse and the game, the victory on the field, is more important.
And make no mistake, the programs that have sold their souls are easy to spot. Nick Saban’s defending national champion Crimson Tide had star linebacker Tim Williams and probable top-five draft pick offensive lineman Cam Robinson both arrested in 2016. Williams was arrested for illegal carrying of a firearm in September, while Robinson and a teammate were arrested in Louisiana for possession of narcotics and illegal carrying of a stolen firearm. It’s not until you read the DA’s explanation for why they declined to prosecute Robinson that you realize how significantly college athletes and the legal system have both been corrupted:
“I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I’m doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all in the air conditioning.”
Neither player was suspended, although both sat out for a game.
Then there’s Baylor.
Might want to consider adding Minnesota to Baylor’s side of the discussion, by the way, because all any reasonable person has to do is read the OEOAAO report on the sexual assault allegedly perpetrated on a single victim by multiple athletes, and it becomes clear that the idea that there’s nothing to prosecute is morally reprehensible. There are text chains, videos, and photographs of the assault –taken by both the perpetrators and witnesses.
Witnesses watched while more than 10 football players allegedly restrained and repeatedly assaulted and raped a woman, and did nothing to help her. They were too busy taking videos and telling their friends to come on over and join in.
But perhaps the most damning evidence from that horrible scene didn’t come from the victim. It came from one of the participants. (Names are redacted from this report by the university.)
[second assaulter] reentered the bedroom and the recruit started to get dressed. [second assaulter] appeared disappointed that the recruit did not ejaculate. [second assaulter] referred to the recruit as a “recruit.” [victim] asked what [second assaulter] meant by “recruit.” [second assaulter] explained that the recruit was a football recruit visiting for the weekend. [victim] was taken aback and asked the recruit if he was in high school. The recruit said yes and that he was not going to come to the University because “it was too fucked up.” [victim] did not see the recruit again.
You read that correctly. A high school recruit was brought in to participate in all the “fun,” and he learned quickly why he didn’t want to attend Minnesota. Why would anyone, frankly? Especially a young woman who reads this report and the horrific events detailed in it. And her parents, upon learning that for some reason no one in local law enforcement or the DA’s office found a reason to arrest the players, charge them with a crime, or prosecute them.
Keep in mind as well that this same incident sparked the “boycott” by the rest of the Minnesota team. Of course they boycotted, because the witnesses who took those videos, sent those texts, laughed on Snapchat, and shared those photos are part of that team. They aren’t guilty of a crime; they are guilty of callousness and complicity and just sheer bestial cruelty. So guilty that the recruit they were trying to impress with college life at Minnesota left for home with the determination not to attend the university. So guilty that they hid behind terms like “due process” and “justice.”
And the university, police department, and District Attorney’s office hid back there too.
But there’s one part of this horrific problem on our college campuses that we haven’t discussed yet, another participant in the tangled web of laws and sports, schools and money who could and should have a role in finding a way to solve the problems inherent in this flawed process. The NCAA should have jurisdiction over the behavior of student-athletes, coaches, and the programs they’re associated with.
It should do a lot of things, but it doesn’t.
Next time, we’ll focus on the NCAA and ask the questions that need to be asked. The first of those questions is the most obvious.
Why isn’t the NCAA doing anything to discipline athletes who commit crimes, particularly sexual assault, and the universities who shelter them?
Until we have an answer to that question, this crisis will continue to escalate. Consider that in 2016, college football leads all categories when it comes to athletes and crime, with 199 arrests so far and countless cases swept under the rug. After all, it’s just too fatiguing to hold athletes to the same standards as other human beings. They work outside in the sun and heat while the rest of us are sitting in the air conditioning. That’s what the DA said in Monroe, Louisiana, and the cops in Waco, Texas, and now apparently the same excuse holds true up in Minnesota as well.
If the athletes aren’t going to be held accountable, who should be? We know who our vote would be for, and in the next installment of this series so will you.