(This is the fifth article in a five part series analyzing athletes, universities, and crime. The primary focus of the series is the ongoing revelations from the rape scandal at Baylor University and was originally published at Blogcritics Magazine on February 4, 2017. I anticipate further articles will follow up this one.)
Welcome to NCAA: Fact or Fanatic, where we’ve reached the final installment of our analysis of athletes’ criminal behavior and the culpability that ensues. Once again, Texas attorney Kevin Lindstrom (who also writes for GigEmGazette.com) and Texas-based Laura Leigh Majer, special contributor to NFLFemale.com and Down and Dirty Sports, weigh in on the issues.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at the fans’ part in the growing problem of student-athletes and crime, focused upon Baylor University and other schools with ongoing sexual assault issues. One of the best places to gather information about how fans feel is The Paul Finebaum Show, a popular sports call-in show on the SEC Network, where on Monday the following occurred:
A Baylor fan from Dallas called the show to claim that “due process” has to play out in the Baylor rape allegations that blew up exponentially over the weekend, and that “it’s not fair” to the athletes or the program to be “punished further” since the president, athletic director, head football coach, and entire assistant coaching staff are no longer employed by the university.
That statement right there is exactly what’s wrong with college football, encapsulated in one fan’s opinion. The fans are what drive college athletics – dollars, attendance, boosters, alumni, gear, tickets, post-season play, online footprint. All of it is fan-generated and fan-driven. The sad fact is that to the average Joe and Jill Q. Public, winning football and basketball games is more important than the physical, emotional, and sexual health of a few anonymous females. And while Baylor University isn’t the only school with issues resulting from sexual assault, there can no longer be much question that it is the worst offender in a national problem.
And fans of the Baylor Bears are more concerned – still – about how fair play should happen for the program and its athletes.
A federal lawsuit filed Friday alleged that at least 31 football players at Baylor University committed at least 52 “acts of rape” over four years — including five gang rapes, two of which involved 10 or more players at the same time, some of whom videotaped the rapes on their phones and passed the recordings around to teammates.
The lawsuit, filed by a Virginia woman who alleges that she was gang-raped by two Baylor players in 2013, is the latest fallout in a sexual-violence scandal that has embroiled the Baptist university in Waco, Tex., for more than a year.
Stop for a moment and let that sink in.
Yes, these are “just” allegations. But with videotaped evidence of gang rapes that involved 10 players or more at the same time, they won’t remain as “just” allegations for long. Just as in the case at the University of Minnesota we discussed a couple of columns ago, video, audio, and phone records are finite, easily subpoenaed, and easily found by people who know how technology works.
The lawsuit describes a culture of sexual violence under former Baylor football coach Art Briles in which the school implemented a “show ’em a good time” policy that “used sex to sell” the football program to recruits. That included escorting underage recruits to strip clubs and arranging women to have sex with prospective players, the suit alleges. Former assistant coach Kendal Briles — the son of the head coach — once told a Dallas-area student athlete, “Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they love football players,” according to the suit.
We had to read that four or five times before it sank in, really. Throughout the multiple universities named in Title IX lawsuits over the past five years has been a key phrase: “culture of rape.” The Title IX suit that the University of Tennessee settled in 2016 accused the school of establishing a “culture of rape,” but the UT cases involved athletes who were immediately deprived of their student-athlete privileges and removed from the team within hours of the allegations being made.
Baylor is different. At Baylor, athletes were protected by the coaches, police, and administration from facing punishment for sexual assault. At Baylor, victims were threatened into silence in order to keep that football program winning. At Baylor, everyone from the board of regents to the athletic director to university officials and police have undoubtedly contributed to what we may absolutely call, in all honesty, a “culture of rape.”
Oh, and let’s be for real here: The fans are guilty of that too.
For any normal adult human being, the idea that the major consideration in a case like this should be for the athletes and the program is incomprehensible. The fact of the matter is that at Baylor, all of the actions taken by the university were for the protection of itself, its program, and its athletes. Not the victims. Not the women who were gang-raped by 10 or more athletes who’d been conditioned to think it was okay because the coaches told them “we have a lot of women and they love football players.”
The victims, on the other hand, were told their parents would be informed of their illicit behavior. You know – drinking, drugs, and promiscuity.
So tell us, Baylor fans. How is it that the athletes involved in these crimes require more consideration than the victims do?
In no way. It can’t be.
The fact of the matter is that fans are not only entitled to expect explanations from universities and the NCAA regarding athlete-involved crimes where a student sexually assaults another student but we, as fans, must accept responsibility for our own part in creating an atmosphere on college campuses across the country in which injustice, torture, and persecution are acceptable as long as the team keeps on winning.
As usual, Lindstrom and Majer bring a sharp focus onto the real issues buried within the larger story. Majer weighs in on the role that football fans play in the dilemma that’s exemplified at Baylor:
The money a winning football team brings to a school also attracts alumni donations. It’s a loop of sorts: give to the team, win big, get money back to school. If covering up for a star player leads to more wins, which could turn into dollars, a program might be tempted to cover up for a player’s misdeeds.
This is borne out by Baylor’s rise to prominence as a football program. Disgraced head coach Art Briles was hired on the heels of a 3-9 2007 record under former head coach Guy Morriss. Under Briles’s “show ’em a good time” recruiting philosophy, the program thrived, as evidenced by their W-L record during his tenure.
Still not convinced?
The plans to build a new stadium began in 2011, when Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy.
In July 2012, Baylor’s board of regents approved the building of the new, state-of-the-art McLane stadium. The stadium was ready for the season opener on August 31, 2014 at a cost of $266 million dollars – dollars that had been raised since Briles became the head coach.
You read that correctly. Baylor raised over a quarter of a billion dollars and built a brand new stadium from the ground up in three years. Three. Years. From 2011-2014, right?
Friday’s new lawsuit, remember, alleges 52 rapes committed by 31 football players from 2011-2014.
Every dollar spent on McLane Stadium was blood money, handed over by donors, boosters, alumni and the state of Texas to a university that was busily threatening, punishing, and marginalizing rape victims while issuing self-congratulatory reports about its purpose as exemplified by its mission statement:
The mission of Baylor University is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.
And while it would be devastatingly simple to break down that mission statement word by word, the sorry fact of the matter is that we don’t have to. This mission statement is a bunch of words, jumbled together and spewed out as rote. We don’t have to break it down because Baylor has proven that every single word is categorically and emphatically the direct opposite of what Baylor actually does. And while some fans, like the Finebaum caller we mentioned earlier, may think that since the erstwhile president, athletic director, head football coach, and all the assistant football coaches are gone Baylor has been punished enough, that’s really not the case.
Unfortunately, convincing Baylor fans of the necessity for further penalties appears to be a lost cause. Surprisingly, Baylor fans are continuing to stand by Art Briles, with some boosters and alumni spending thousands of dollars to “protest” his dismissal. Briles, astonishingly, is suing Baylor for his firing. And as more victims come forward and the sheer scale of the program’s horrific actions continues to grow, the definition of a “culture of rape” is shockingly, unbelievably clear.
culture of rape (phrase) – 1. a sociological concept used to describe a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality 2. Baylor University
Come on down to Baylor! We’ve got lots of women and they love football players.
There you go, folks. A bona fide, in your face, without-a-shred-of-morality culture of rape.
But here’s where we need to begin drawing the line – not just at Baylor, but at the universities of which we are fans, alumni, or (in the case of our home state schools) supporters via our tax dollars. As fans, we hold the ultimate trump card and that’s the almighty dollar, as Lindstrom remarked:
Fans as the ultimate consumers can speak with their dollars. Anybody who makes a conscious choice to give money to universities to watch these athletes [is] contributing.
Which is absolutely true. Majer expanded with another serious consideration:
Fans, especially student fans, need to see some kind of punishment for athletes who commit crimes. I cannot imagine being a victim of a star player and having to see him get all kinds of attention from the fans and the media every week.
So the problem isn’t as simple as he said/she said. The issues that are driving the catastrophic rise of student-athletes committing crimes, and particularly sexual assault, are entrenched. They are also not new. Enabling criminal activity has been a part of college football culture for decades. Fans expect wins, and they demand the coaches provide those wins regardless of the cost. Universities rely upon the college football cash cow, and the NCAA does as well. Players are shown as recruits that their personal behavior isn’t a priority for those win-starved coaches, and then undertake criminal activity because they are confident the coaches and the university will either enable those activities or genuinely obstruct any attempts to discipline the player. The administrations are counting on the NCAA not getting overly involved in student-athlete crimes, although they’re paranoid about breakfast buffets and photo ops during official visits by top recruits. And the NCAA believes it is answerable to whom?
But that’s not the case, according to Lindstrom.
At the very least, fans have a right to expect the NCAA to not cover up or actively support anyone who is involved in criminal activity. The question comes in with how much they should get involved when schools dropped the ball. Baylor is a clear example of this. Especially because we’re talking about student-athlete on student violence, it absolutely is in the purview of the NCAA. This is not the Penn State situation.
What it boils down to is this: There’s a serious problem in this country and has been for some time. Athletes at the collegiate and pro levels support and subsidize a system that enables their criminal behavior in return. Not all schools do this. Most athletes never commit any offense worse than a speeding ticket. Not all coaches enable their players by overlooking their actions.
But those programs, those coaches, those players who do are operating within a back-scratching good-ole-boy-network mentality that football fans, boosters, and alumni willfully ignore because all they care about is the win. They reward those wins with dollars, and those dollars reinforce the system that is turning a blind eye to all these behaviors.
And then when a young woman is gang-raped in Minnesota by football players while a recruit participates and onlookers text and video the event, or another woman is raped by two football players at Baylor and that event is videotaped and passed around to teammates who were told by a coach during recruiting to come to Baylor because they have lots of women and they love football players, or an unconscious woman is found by a Stanford athlete who rapes her in a parking lot instead of calling emergency services – what’s the first thing you hear from fans?
And that, fellow football fans, is no one’s fault but our own.
The one absolute in cases like these is simple, but overlooked: All college students are entitled to a safe, healthy campus where they will not be preyed upon by their fellow students. Everyone from the NCAA down to the fan is obligated socially, morally, and legally to ensure the safety of every single student. If we, as fans, are to demand that the NCAA, universities, and programs guarantee that one absolute, the system we have in place now must be overhauled in its entirety. And we, too, must take a good, hard look at ourselves. By participating financially with the toxic programs discussed in this column, we are supporting the status quo.
That includes hiring coaches.
Since Briles was ejected from Baylor, the rumor mill has been grinding out a list of potential places the disgraced coach might land – both on the collegiate level and in the NFL. But with last week’s latest allegations, what does the future look like for Briles now?
When a female student-athlete reported that a football player had brandished a gun at her, the court paperwork said, Briles texted an assistant coach: “what a fool – she reporting to authorities.”
In another case, where a masseuse asked the team to discipline a player who reportedly exposed himself and asked for favors during a massage, the document said Briles’ first response was, “What kind of discipline…She a stripper?”
That, our friends, epitomizes what a “rape culture” is. That sloughing off of the real issues, blaming the victim, contemptuous laughter about the victim’s situation, is exactly what a rape culture is all about. Art Briles’s reaction to the atmosphere he himself had created in the Baylor football program is as much a rape of the victims as the actual assault was.
Interestingly, Briles dropped his wrongful termination suit against Baylor on the same day.
Even before these texts burst onto the internet just days ago, even before we worked them into an article already submitted to the editors as completed, Lindstrom’s opinion about Briles’s potential future in coaching was clear:
Throw in the new allegations that came out January 26th, it’s going to be a number of years before anybody even thinks about [Briles]. He was probably radioactive before today, but now it’s unimaginable. In fact, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with his assistant coaches that went on to other schools. Back to Briles, never is a long time but on the other hand, he isn’t a spring chicken. There’s a good chance that by the time he rehabilitates himself, if that’s possible, there will be too many good young coaches that he just won’t get work.
After this latest report on rape allegations against Baylor (52 rapes over 4 years), I do not think Briles should ever coach again on a college level. He could probably go on an NFL staff in a minor role, but I think he has shown he has no business being anywhere near the college game. Given the most recent allegations, I am disappointed that coaches who were on his staff have been hired to other programs. Clearly, these men are not concerned about the conduct of their players as long as they win games. Coaches with this attitude do not belong on the college coaching level either.
We agree. Our responsibility as fans of the game is to ensure that the poisonous ideologies exemplified by Briles, his staff, and the University of Baylor are never accepted into other collegiate programs. Never.
And until fans do that? Baylor is only the tip of a very toxic iceberg.