By: Zachary Draves
The NCAA seems to care about the sanctity of supposed “amateur athletics” where student-athlete gets caught smoking pot, taking money, or in the case of James Wiseman, be punished for doing nothing wrong at all.
Yet, whenever there is a student athlete who has a record of sexual assault, they turn a blind eye.
All of this was documented in a recent expose by USA Today, which confirmed that there have been 28 current and former student athletes who were allowed to transfer schools even if they had been disciplined for sexual assault by another college.
There were also five additional cases where student athletes were allowed to play even after being charged and/or convicted through the courts.
As was said before and is clearly established in USA Today, the NCAA crackdown on student athletes whenever there is any academic troubles or petty offenses involving marijuana or simply needed money to survive.
But there is no mention of any sexual misconduct policy in the NCAA handbook.
There is also no acknowledgment of any penalties for such offenses.
Even just as troubling is over the course of this investigation, they found various loopholes and shortcomings on the part of the NCAA and many colleges/universities.
Among them are the following:
- Even if a school disciplines or punishes a student athlete for sexual misconduct, the NCAA creates a pathway for those athletes to return to the playing field in little to no time
- These athletes sometimes transfer to junior colleges before returning to a Division 1 institution or they transfer to another school before any disciplinary action takes effect
- While various conferences have adopted their own misconduct policies, they all define misconduct differently and don’t have a functioning background system and instead rely on an honor system.
- The NCAA and some school don’t have a comprehensive background system
All of these failures clearly demonstrated that the NCAA is disturbingly lagging behind in the #MeToo era.
They have shown time and time again that their biggest endgame is money and profit.
If an athlete or a coach for that matter can bring home a title, drive up ratings, and ultimately make the hierarchy continue to sleep good at night, even with a history of sexual violence and/or complete insensitivity to victims/survivors, in their eyes, so be it.
Just look back at history.
In 1988, Indiana’s Bobby Knight made headlines (shockingly) when he said in a television interview the despicable comment “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it”. Women’s groups and advocates for survivors of assault protested on the campus and called for his termination.
But Indiana stood by him, and it wasn’t the first time until 2000 when he was finally done for after his disgusting behavior was caught on tape.
Or how about the scandal at Penn State University in 2011, when assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested, charged, and ultimately convicted for sexually abusing young boys for a number of years that was covered up by the University and their “beloved” Joe Paterno.
Let’s not forget that it was Joe Paterno who, like Bobby Knight, ran the University and as the news came out about Sandusky’s behavior, there was a surge of students and administrators rushing to protect the image of the school and Paterno.
Then, there was the scandal at Michigan State University where Larry Nassir resided. The doctor for the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team who sexually abused young female athletes including Olympic stars Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles.
He was eventually sentenced to 165 years after powerful testimony from Aly and others.
It turns out that the University and the USOC had completely neglected the victims whenever reports of Nassir’s actions were brought up.
Also, there was Jameis Winston, who was credibly accused of sexual assault while as a student at Florida State University.
Even though the case never proceeded, there were troubling actions on the part of the police, the University, and the sports media.
The survivor, Erica Kinsman, said that when she reported the case to the police, she was told to “think twice before reporting”, because of the culture of the town that was dedicated to football.
Erica received death threats, ridicule, and eventually had to leave FSU.
She tells her story in the Oscar award winning film The Hunting Ground.
All of this goes to the show that sexual assault is something that is brushed under the rug in the world of college athletics.
In this time of a new resurgence of advocacy and calls for accountability, the time is now for schools, athletes, coaches, athletic directors, administrators, and the NCAA to take sexual assault seriously.
Prevention education programs, awareness events, trainings, continuous dialogues, and updated policy changes all need to take effect immediately.
Among the policy changes include:
- The NCAA to include penalties for misconduct in their rulebook.
- All NCAA conferences should develop and implement a clear cut policy on sexual misconduct that is comprehensive and universal.
- Title IX must be protected and expanded so that the law is clearly defined to protect all survivors of assault including LGBTQ, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary survivors.
The latter speaks to the recent rollbacks of Title IX protections by the Department of Education that lean toward protecting the accused over the accuser and essentially takes the burden off of schools to enforce the law.
Acknowledging that something is wrong should be a springboard for action.
We can no longer look the other way when lives are at stake.
The power of sport be part of the solution and not the problem.
Do something before it is too late.
If you are in need of help and need someone to talk to you in a judgment free space, please call the RAINN hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
In addition, here a list of sexual assault prevention organizations:
Know Your IX: https://www.knowyourix.org/
It’s On Us: https://www.itsonus.org/
National Sexual Violence Resource Center: https://www.nsvrc.org/