VIOLENCE, CRIMES, AND OTHER BAD BEHAVIORS
of Athletes, Coaches, and Management ©
AGONY IN THE SHADOWS OF VICTORY©
Think before you act
- Locker Rooms, President Trump, and Sexual Offenses
- Sports Gambling Is Here To Stay
- Under the NCAA's Watch: Sexual Crimes, Academic Fraud, Drugs Etc.
Reports of violence, crimes, and other off-the-field transgressions by athletes, coaches and even owners have been escalating in our most popular sports. In professional and intercollegiate football, where numerous publicized sexual and domestic assaults against women and children have been proven or persuasively alleged—including the Ray Rice, Darren Sharper, Josh Brown, Penn State, Florida State, and Baylor University controversies—the number and extent of those offenses reveal an underlying subculture of malevolence. Yet, recent revelations about sexual abuse allegations by young elite female athletes against coaches and even team doctors that went unreported for years are no less shocking. Paralleling the rest of American society, almost all of these criminal charges and offenses have involved male athletes, male coaches, and male doctors, although a few female athletes have achieved notoriety as well.
Much of the time, these sports-inspired transgressions have been obscured, covered up and/or marginalized by leagues, sports organizations, teams, teammates, universities, and sympathetic law enforcement officials creating scandals of another kind. Occasionally, because these athletes are high profile celebrities and many are of color or ethnically different, their transgressions have received greater scrutiny from the justice system, but that tends to be the exception, not the general rule. The antiquated notion that boys will be boys continues to mar our professional leagues, university and college administrations that have big time athletic programs, law enforcement, and even the past behaviors of our President.
Images of violence and actual violence are everywhere in our society. No post-modern industrial nation has struggled more with the negative effects of violence and guns than has the United States. From cradle to grave, Americans—particularly boys during their most vulnerable developmental years—tend to be immersed in violent and antisocial behaviors. The overall mental health of America has been further undermined by the violence, crimes, and other bad behaviors spawned by our most popular spectator sports. In recent years, two famous former NFL players, Aaron Hernandez and Rae Carruth, a major league baseball player, a NHL hockey player, and a Baylor basketball star have all been convicted of murder.In addition, dozens of former elite athletes have serious felony convictions on their resumes, while many more have been accused of sexual assault or domestic violence.
Although it can be argued that organized sports may play a minor role in providing cathartic outlets for the violent propensities of some athletes, coaches, and fans, our most popular sports have played a much larger role in teaching and encouraging aggression, violence, and abuse, most notably against girls and women. Too many of those who participate in our favorite spectator sports, their families and friends, and their fans have contributed in significant ways to overly aggressive, abusive, and violent propensities that pervade our society. Furthermore, there are many other bad behaviors that our favorite spectator sports have incubated and facilitated, including widespread cheating, misuse of drugs, and unsavory and addictive gambling practices.
FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, SPORTS GAMBLING--
LIKE MARIJUANA USE—IS HERE TO STAY©
John Weston Parry
It was practically inevitable that gambling would stage a massive comeback in sports, as long as the costs and potential penalties for doing so became manageable. This pleasant dream or nightmare—depending on one’s view—may be fully realized soon, if either: the U.S. Supreme Court sides with the state of New Jersey to legalize sports gambling; or Congress repeals or amends the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). PASPA prohibits sports gambling, but curiously not in all jurisdictions, nor in all sports. Congress apparently continues to believe that equal coverage and protection of our laws need not apply to sports or gambling.
For years betting or gaming either in Las Vegas or on horses, Jai alai, and fantasy sports has been treated differently than other forms of gambling. Recently several of our major professional leagues, most notably the NFL, have decided that it is now okay to allow teams to locate in Las Vegas, the sports gambling center of the Western World. These leagues are using their entry into the “sin city” as a global marketing opportunity, in part because domestic television sports viewers seems to be shrinking. NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, who continues to be viewed in the media as more of a saint then a sinner, has been leading the sports gambling legalization charge.
Thus, there may well be a day not so far in the future when adult sports fans can go to a game, place a bet for or against the home team, and purchase marijuana candy or buds from a vendor or food stand (for either recreational or medicinal purposes.) Undoubtedly, should they decide to purchase all three options, those fans would qualify for a discount package that will feature a photo of Pete Rose or Brent Musburger. For adults in Las Vegas the premium sports package will include a visit to a reputable brothel. Sports fans, who are minors, will have to be a little more creative—wink, wink—in order to duplicate their parents and grandparents “true game” experiences.
If that were to happen, our major professional team sports will make huge amounts of easy money. As former gambling addict and current ESPN poker analyst, Norman Chad, has poignantly written in his syndicated Washington Post column, when it comes to betting, the “house almost always wins.” Our major professional leagues, like many state governments, want a share of those fast accumulating profits. Not surprisingly, they are all lining up to obtain their rooms in the house, which already has become a sprawling mansion.
A Brief History of Sports Gambling in America
The reason sports gambling became so controversial is that it once threatened to destroy the integrity, community standing, and funding streams of our most popular team sports. (Certain individual sports—especially boxing, horse racing, and Jai alai—had less integrity to lose, so the threat was not perceived in the same way.) Two of the nation’s most publicized sports gambling scandals occurred some thirty years apart in professional baseball and college basketball, respectively. Both scandals involved the fixing of games, which helped give rise to the creation of strong executive authorities to protect those sports from the potential ravages of organized crime. Judge Keenesaw “Mountain” Landis became baseball’s first commissioner in 1920 and Walter Byers assumed the reigns of the NCAA in 1951.
The Black Sox Scandal, also known as “The Big Fix,” proved to be the most notorious sports gambling episode in our history. Not only did the scandal involve baseball, America’s pastime in those days, but its fame would be resurrected in John Sayles 1988 movie Eight Men Out. As with several modern day scandals in which criminal law was applied to major professional and collegiate sports in highly publicized cases—O.J. Simpson, Penn State, and Jameis Winston, for example—many implausible or inexplicable circumstances mysteriously intervened, producing legally unsatisfying results.
While previously there had been numerous rumors about gamblers using baseball players to obtain inside information to hedge their bets, what transpired in 1919 when a number of Chicago White Sox players allegedly took bribes to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Red Legs was a quantum leap worse. The sacrificial lambs for this broken trust turned out to be the now infamous slugger, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and seven other White Sox players, all of whom were indicted for conspiracy after confessing to a grand jury that they had received bribes from gamblers. Yet, all of those players were found not guilty when their written confessions vanished into thin air. A number of historians have speculated that Charles Comiskey, the White Sox’s owner, and the gangster, Arnold Rothstein, who ran sports gambling as one of his many operations, had hired individuals to steal the key evidence to protect their respective business interests.
Baseball Commissioner Landis, sensing the pulse of the nation and a growing threat to baseball, defied Comiskey, who was one of his most influential bosses, by ruling that “`[r]egardless of the verdict[s]… no player who throws a ballgame…, promises to throw a ball game… or sits in conference where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed …will ever play professional baseball.” All eight players were banned from baseball for life, even though the evidence was equivocal that they had actually thrown any games. Shoeless Jackson’s most persuasive defense was that he had hit a lofty .375 during the Series. Nevertheless, Landis never relented. The precedent he set probably played a significant role in Pete Rose’s lifetime ban from baseball in 1989 for gambling on games involving the team he had played for and was now coaching, the Cincinnati Reds.
In many ways the second most famous sports gambling scandal was considerably more pernicious. It involved the widespread fixing of college basketball games. From 1947 through 1951 nearly three dozen players were accused of taking money to shave points and occasionally to even lose games. The most shocking accusations surrounded the University of Kentucky, the nation’s best college basketball program at the time, and its Hall of Fame coach, Adolph Rupp. Much like today, too often the worst offenses in collegiate sports are committed by the teams that are most successful.
The charges against Kentucky were so damning that the university decided—with a push from new NCAA executive director, Walter Byers—to suspend its basketball program for the entire 1952-53 season. Nevertheless, even though two of his players admitted accepting bribes throughout their collegiate careers and that they had deliberately caused their team to lose the then very prestigious National Invitation Tournament, Rupp refused to accept any responsibility. He, as did other college basketball coaches in that era, blamed society. Rupp contended that since this type of corruption was widespread in business and politics, it was inevitable that it would be present in basketball and other sports as well. It was a clever, if not a logically persuasive, defense for bad behaviors that over the years collegiate coaches and other sports figures have adopted repeatedly.
Fantasy Sports Rejuvenate Sports Gambling
Since the collegiate basketball point-shaving and game-throwing revelations of the late 1940’s and early 50’s, gambling crimes, with a few notable exceptions, have been well-contained in major team sports. The few public instances of gambling-related criminal associations and behaviors with professional and collegiate athletics have involved single individuals, most notably Pete Rose and former NBA referee Tim Donaghy. The game-changer in terms of redefining America’s tightrope act with sports gambling has been the advent of fantasy leagues, which originated in the early 1980’s as a quaint pastime known as Rotisserie baseball.
By the mid-1990’s, though, there were a slew of fantasy games of chance involving many other sports as well, especially football and basketball. What made this type of gambling different was the camaraderie among participants, the virtual competitive connections to professional and collegiate sports, and its vast expansion on the Internet. It began as leagues of individuals, but soon became online games of chance managed and manipulated by corporations, many utilizing off-shore accounts.
As with most types of gaming for dollars there is a substantial element of chance in fantasy sports, but to win consistently many of these games require focused intelligence and/or access to not widely circulated information, similar to card-counting in poker or twenty-one. Unlike card-counting, though, no one has their legs broken or can be arrested for playing the game too well. In that sense fantasy sports are a shark’s dream, especially if the shark owns a website devoted to allowing competitors to play against a house that almost always wins.
Fantasy sports are heavily weighted in terms of participants towards young, adult, college educated, Caucasian males. In other words, people who are comfortable with risk and have money in their pockets to burn. Of the estimated nearly 60 million North Americans who gamble on these virtual sports, reportedly two-thirds play fantasy football, which is more popular than all the other American fantasy sports combined. These gambling games are becoming a global phenomenon as well, especially fantasy soccer, basketball, golf, and tennis.
The largely unregulated expansion of gambling through fantasy sports is insidious. Dan Okrent, the individual who is credited with founding Rotisserie baseball, has famously lamented: “I feel the way J. Robert Oppenheimer felt after having invented the atomic bomb: if I’d only known this plague that I’ve visited upon the world….”
What has made this particularly gaming industry so challenging, domestically, is that it has existed largely outside the scope of state and federal laws that regulate other gaming enterprises. As with professional and collegiate sports, few politicians have been willing to pass measures to place restrictions on this increasingly popular industry. Sports networks cover the fantasy elements of football—and other popular sports as well—as if the virtual reality is as meaningful as the games themselves. This new gambling element, which is supported in many different ways by the NFL and ignored by the NCAA, helps ensure that even with professional and collegiate football match-ups that have little consequence in terms of the winning or losing titles or championships, there is a core group of concerned betters and gamers who are likely to be tuned-in.
The popularity of fantasy sports leagues and websites has dramatically altered the moral calculus when it comes to sports gambling. In particular it has muted the negative association of gambling and gamblers with professional and collegiate sports. This is one important reason why politicians are now willing to push for measures to expand the legalization of this type of betting, and professional leagues are maneuvering to increase their gambling-related market shares by moving to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Was a Red Line No Major Professional League Would Cross, Until It Wasn’t
Major professional leagues deciding to locate in Las Vegas has altered the political climate towards sports gambling, almost as much as fantasy football. For years league commissioners warned of the hazards of Vegas, even though players, coaches, and owners were known to visit the sin city on more than the rare occasion. Las Vegas has become one of the most publicized vacation destinations for high profile professional and collegiate athletes, in large part because of its readily accessible vices. If one wants to gather inside gambling information about players on various professional teams, Las Vegas is a very good place to be. Loose lips not only sink ships, but they also can affect the betting odds. This is why until recently the idea of marrying sports teams with Vegas was viewed as being reckless. It was a red line no major professional league was willing to cross.
That all began to change, though, after the sin city started to court professional franchises promising huge public subsidies. In addition, those sports leagues realized that being in Las Vegas was no longer a public relations nightmare. More importantly, Vegas could provide them with a global presence since relatively wealthy individuals from around the world flock there for a good time. The first coordinated attempt occurred in 2014 when the Las Vegas mayor attempted to attract a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise by promising to publicly finance the building of a $200 million soccer stadium. The underlying motivation for spending so much on soccer appeared to have been that local politicians believed having an MLS team would make it easier to attract more established leagues, most notably the NFL.
Many city residents mired in far more serious social problems that needed immediate attention, including a woeful public education system, voiced their strong opposition to such an expenditure of public funds. MLS, after gauging local resistance and the potential for bad publicity, decided to pass on Las Vegas as the site of one of its new franchises. Nevertheless, a few month later the National Hockey League approved a Vegas expansion team to be run by a consortium of owners, two of whom—the Maloof brothers—had substantial financial ties to a local casino. The league and consortium were so eager to capitalize on being the first professional team in that city they did not even demand a substantial public subsidy. Their eagerness soon turned to envy, anger, and market-share concern, however, when the NFL engineered a sweetheart deal to relocate the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas in 2020 for many hundreds of millions of public dollars to be split by the team and the remaining league owners.
The Las Vegas sports gambling red line seems to have been obliterated when America’s favorite sports league decided to warmly embrace what had once been forbidden. For sin city gaming interests, though, the NFL’s move actually may result in more competition, especially if either the Supreme Court or Congress decide to permit the expansion of sports gambling into virgin jurisdictions. Yet, all of the various sports gambling interests are likely to see their profits rise in the wake of any substantial judicial and/or political victories. As noted earlier, “the house almost always wins,” meaning sports gamblers almost always lose, too often in repetitive, reckless, or addictive ways.
LOCKER ROOMS, PRESIDENT TRUMP, AND SEXUAL OFFENSES IN THE SPECTATOR SPORTS WORLD ©
John Weston Parry
While members of the movie business and the spectator sports world tend to be on different sides of the political spectrum—more liberal vs. more conservative—they are both part of male-dominated entertainment industries in which sexism, sexual harassment, sexual assaults, and other abuses of females have been rampant for decades. Harvey Weinstein now represents the egregious behaviors in the movie industry, while many athletes, millions of fans, and President Trump convey a predatory locker room mentality.
In many ways, though, the sexual harassment, abuse, exploitation and denigration in sports is worse because it seems to include more acts of physical violence and implicates a much larger segment of the American male population. This social cancer goes far beyond the boundaries of the newly-named “Me Too” movement, which in sports is exemplified by multiple allegations that a team doctor sexually molested numerous American female gymnasts, including Olympic medalist, McKayla Maroney.
Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post articulated, with resounding clarity, that it is not only the men and boys who commit these offenses that are at fault. It is every male who does not challenge predatory behaviors when they are committed and denigrating words when they are uttered. This obvious, but understated principle of engagement, applies to sexism in all its forms.
If one were to measure invidious discrimination in male spectator sports according to the number of people who are victimized and the seriousness of the offenses, sexism—including harassment and physical and sexual assaults—would constitute the worst type of discrimination. There is a natural physical imbalance between males and females as well, which makes it easier for boys and men—especially athletes who tend to be bigger, faster, and stronger—to physically overwhelm girls and women. Also, too many athletes and former athletes continue to denigrate female athletes and other women who are trying to gain entry into the male-dominated sports professions.
It can no longer be reasonably denied that male spectator sports are incubators of bad behaviors towards females. Football has been at the epicenter of the most publicized transgressions, but these transgressions occur in almost all male spectator sports, especially those in which locker rooms and segregated meeting places play a central role. Like fraternities and boy’s and men’s clubs, there is something pathological about the locker room mentality, which precipitates bad behaviors against females.
Due to the higher levels of testosterone and machismo, these sexist attitudes tend to be even worse in locker rooms and other private areas for male athletes. Those attitudes tend to be taught and then fester in these insulated homogeneous environments. One of the worst insults for a male, especially an athlete, is being called a pussy,” while female athletes who happen to have a natural over-abundance of testosterone continue to be viewed as cheaters. Not surprisingly, the resulting bad behaviors that target women and girls remain widespread. They extend not only to the sports world, but boardrooms, offices, professions, religions, the military, law enforcement and other American social institutions. Like guns and violence, this aggressive form of sexism has become a serious public health problem.
Male Locker Rooms Are Sanctuaries for Sexist Behaviors
In the enthusiasm to publicize the sordid legacy of Harvey Weinstein and the movie industry, the sexual exploits of our President, which should be even more disturbing, have escaped a comparable level of attention and scrutiny. President Trump’s sexual bad behaviors can be directly tied to his locker room mentality. What follows is an updated version of an essay that was posted on this website page last February with an emphasis on bad behaviors in sports that target women and girls.
Locker room morality took center stage, vanished, and reappeared during the 2016 presidential elections. This happened after excerpts of a 2005 taped conversation were revealed in which then private citizen, Donald Trump, reveled in his sexual misbehaviors and conquests. So far the alleged victims of the President’s exploits—unlike the women and girls Harvey Weinstein allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted—have not been taken seriously enough to ensure that President Trump is being held accountable.
An overriding issue—beyond the disqualifying nature of Trump’s words and actions for a President of the United States—should be the role of locker rooms, not only in facilitating and inculcating such beliefs, but also in tolerating and often embracing the bad behaviors that result. As the highly offensive and much publicized incendiary words of the academically privileged male student-athletes at Harvard, Washington University, and Columbia have demonstrated, there is a disquieting connection between locker room talk and sexual harassment, sexual assaults, and other related offenses that sully professional, college, and even high school athletics. Unfortunately, the President and his administration still appear to embrace this sports-related pathology, even while they threaten professional athletes, who dare to protest against racial injustice by symbolically kneeling during the National Anthem.
During the presidential election, the best response that candidate Trump thought he could give, in light of the emergence of his predatory words on tape, was to assert that he never had engaged in the sexual misbehaviors and crimes that he could be heard bragging about. The President claimed that his unfiltered comments were locker room banter. Boys will be boys he earnestly argued. Although not an elite athlete himself, President Trump has had a long and close relationship with sports, especially professional football and golf. On MTV he once bragged, “I was always a good athlete. I played football, baseball, soccer. I wrestled.” He also apparently dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. In the 1980’s, he owned the New Jersey Generals, an unsuccessful team in the now defunct United States Football League. In recent years, he frequently has stood on the sidelines at New England Patriots games, and his golf empire appears to have made him a favorite among PGA players.
The President understands locker rooms and how they relate to one of his largest and most loyal constituencies: male sports fans. During the elections, Trump took advantage of the widespread perception—which was boosted by his victory—that what goes on in locker rooms must be praiseworthy because it represents the opposite of being politically correct. This aspect of the male-dominated sports culture may be distressing to many or even most Americans, especially women and girls, but, nonetheless, locker rooms remain a hallowed bastion of bravado and secrecy.
Apparently the President correctly calculated that his largely conservative male following would exult in his sexual exploits, while undecided women and evangelical men would give him the benefit of the doubt, if they could be convinced that his abhorrent words were challenges to political correctness, rather than a confession to having engaged in sexual assaults himself. The best way for Trump to accomplish that sleight of hand was to create the lasting impression that what he said he had done was similar to what many athletes reportedly say in locker rooms all the time—and should be encouraged to say. This was the President-to-be cleverly embracing innocence by association in order to concoct a conceivably plausible explanation for his reprehensible behaviors.
Initially, the presidential candidate’s locker-room defense seemed to misfire badly. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post skewered Trump’s hypocrisy. His words, she wrote, were “not the talk of leaders; it’s the talk of bandwagoners and wannabes who are trying to make some invisible Man Team.” Yet, in the end, Trump’s team won. It also turned out that the content of Trump’s words were little different than the mean-spirited and disparaging remarks that the relatively cerebral Harvard and Washington University soccer players and Columbia University wrestlers had been making about female students and female student-athletes.
While many male athletes and sports commentators quickly responded that what had happened at those elite universities was not typical of locker-room chatter, the argument was not particularly convincing. It is hard to believe that the values of most professional or major collegiate athletes tend to be more civilized than those of the implicated athletes at three of the most distinguished academic universities, which give out no athletic scholarships. In any case, the question of whether or not such degrading words represented typical locker room banter obscures a more fundamental issue: What tends to go on in these locker rooms and in the minds of these athletes?
One certainly would expect that most team leaders and their followers have evolved sufficiently—and are also aware enough—to understand, in a world of smart phones and a multitude of social media venues, that type of derogatory and predatory talk, if it becomes public, can diminish athletic incomes and create a firestorm of bad publicity. The almost instantaneous toppling of former Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, several years ago underscores the advisability of sports figures not engaging in socially reprehensible talk, even in their off-the- record conversations.
Today’s locker room privacy protocols were not so deeply ingrained in the sports culture a number of years ago when Donald Trump uttered his infamous predatory words. At the same time, the spectacle of male athletes in our most popular spectator sports sexually and physically assaulting women and girls continues to be a relatively common occurrence. Yet, it still has not become a normal practice for teammates or coaches to condemn those athletes who embrace such aberrant behaviors.
It is one thing to kneel during the National Anthem as a symbol of protest or solidarity, and quite another to call out a teammate in a way that might disrupt team chemistry or cast aspersions on a fellow athlete. Being a good teammate by withholding criticism in the face of offensive language and behaviors extends well-beyond the physical and mental space known as the locker-room, especially if the perpetrator is viewed as a valued contributor to a team. Typically these locker room dynamics are imprinted in high school, and sometimes earlier than that. Those unwritten rules and practices are reinforced and strengthened in college athletics and the professional ranks.
Revealing the sexist sins of a teammate is normally viewed in a much harsher light than the sins themselves. Predictably, many athletes and much of the spectator sports world deemed what President Trump said on tape as something that rarely would be expressed in a team locker room today, especially if anyone was able to record such a conversation. Even if that were generally true—which seems dubious in light of what male student-athletes in prestigious bastions of academia have been heard saying—that would be of little solace to those women and girls who have been harassed, abused, or assaulted as a result of the sexist behaviors our favorite spectator sports seem to cultivate.
One of the problems in trying to deal with sexual harassment, sexual crimes, and other forms of sexism has been the terminology, which often lacks specificity, leading to ambiguity, confusion, and due process equivocations. If anything a male does that a female does not want constitutes harassment and every type of non-consensual sex is classified as rape, then the ability of society and the law to draw meaningful distinctions tends to be marginalized to everyone’s detriment. There also is a logical difference between acknowledging that too many—or perhaps even a majority of—men and boys have engaged in some form of sexually harassing, violent, or denigrating behaviors towards women and girls and presuming a specific male is a sexual offender because one or more females have accused him of such a transgression. That determination should be left to the courts to decide, rather than in the media. Human nature is just too fragile, our sexual mores too ambiguous and confused, justifiable distrust and even loathing of men too widespread, and due process too important to presume—without rigorous scrutiny—that accusations should be equated with truth and reality.
At the same time, there can be no doubt that this country has a serious public health problem when it comes to sexism, sexual harassment and sexual abuse, especially in the spectator sports world. There is a malevolent culture that infects football and other American spectator sports played by men and boys. That malevolence negatively influences too many fans, young athletes, ex-athletes, and athlete “wannabes” like our President.
Transparency will not solve this growing social problem by itself, but it can lead to public revelations that will bring about changes that our courtrooms could never advance. Male athletes and coaches at all levels of play, and those who have unfiltered access to locker rooms and other private areas where athletes congregate, should speak out. In addition, the media should be fully engaged in uncovering and condemning sexist and violent attitudes and behaviors towards females in the sports world. This pathology that infects our sports culture needs to be transformed, and the sooner the better.
Under The NCAA's Watch: Sexual Crimes, Academic
Fraud, Drugs, Cover-ups, and Other Abuses©
By John Weston Parry
While extravagant head coaching salaries, professionalizing athletic departments, unfair rules on amateurism, chaotic conference realignments, and the College Football Playoff have all raised legitimate concerns about the businesses of major intercollegiate sports, nothing has been as disturbing as the sexual crimes, widespread corruption, academic fraud, and cover-ups under the NCAA’s protective umbrella. Penn State was a human tragedy that highlighted bad behaviors throughout big-time intercollegiate sports.
What became lost in the firestorm of outrage against Penn State university officials, however, was the critical role the NCAA played in allowing this travesty of justice to occur. Since then the NCAA's lack of institutional control has become painfully apparent, time and time again.
For years, except for its arcane and self-serving rules on amateurism, the NCAA has largely: ignored or obscured bad behaviors, until after they have been publicized; provided cover and excuses—including for the worst offenders; favored what are now called the super-conference schools; and maintained an inept and arbitrary investigative and enforcement structure that often is directly influenced by the powerful athletic departments that the NCAA is supposed to be disciplining. More recently, there have been numerous, well-respected universities and colleges that have promoted themselves as being bastions of learning and integrity, which have looked the other way, pleaded ignorance, and/or deliberately obscured what was happening when their athletic departments and favored teams committed serious offenses.
Officials at these universities and colleges frequently have facilitated, participated in, or even engineered cover-ups. In this distorted world of major intercollegiate sports, plausible deniability masquerades as the truth. Numerous scandals involving various forms of malevolence—well after the child sexual abuses involving Penn State finally were revealed—have implicated football, basketball, and other key athletic programs at such schools as Baylor, Rutgers, Florida State, the Naval Academy, Vanderbilt, Miami, Notre Dame, Southern California, Ohio State, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Auburn, North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, New York State University at Binghamton, the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, and many other universities and colleges.
Making matters worse, it appears likely that there have been numerous instances of serious transgressions, corruption, and cover-ups in various collegiate athletic programs that have never been revealed, at least not publicly. Given the lax and biased enforcement that often occurs when major intercollegiate sports programs are involved, the incidents that have been uncovered probably are only the tip of the iceberg. In addition, there has been a multiplicity of stories—almost daily—about alleged criminal, antisocial, and boorish behaviors by major college athletes, especially football and male basketball players. Sexual assaults and other types of violence appear to be regular occurrences.
Sadly the lingering question is whether, as certain die-hard intercollegiate alumni and other athletic supporters contend, the popularity of football and basketball help to identify these transgressions more easily or, as the mounting evidence strongly suggests, the cultures surrounding major intercollegiate sports breed such behaviors. There can be little doubt that too many of these elite athlete’s lack maturity—even when compared to other male college students—because they have been coddled, glorified, and regularly allowed to break rules without taking full—and sometimes any—responsibility for their actions.
They also have grown up in locker room cultures that condone and even embrace these bad behaviors and adolescent excesses. What teammates do in front of each other, no matter how vile, normally remains hidden by a gang-like code of silence. As discussed elsewhere, there is little or no transparency in this locker room culture.
The NCAA has addressed these serious behavioral problems in ways that seem to vacillate between being oblivious and self-serving and arbitrary and unfair, depending on the university, college, or individual that the organization has in its purview, and the type of offense or transgression that is involved. While far more serious crimes and bad behaviors have been going on—many of them undoubtedly undiscovered—the NCAA often has chosen to make examples of certain individuals and universities, who have done little wrong in a moral or legal sense, but have been caught up in the arcane rules and investigatory procedures that underscore the NCAA’s proclivity towards arbitrary, erratic, and face-saving enforcement.
The NCAA’s mantra appears to be: punish the defenseless and more vulnerable severely, so the more powerful athletic programs can pretty much violate the rules with impunity, or at least with a manageable cost of doing business that does little to hinder the generation of revenues or reform bad behaviors. With the NCAA in charge there is little or no due process for anyone, but especially the victims.
Incubating The NFL Culture of Violence and Sexual Assault in Super-Conference Football Programs
Unlike professional baseball, hockey, or basketball, which have their own minor leagues, for professional football the primary training grounds for NFL players is in college, mainly on the teams that now comprise the super conferences that are part of what is called the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Thus, it should be no surprise that most of the same bad behaviors that are found in the NFL flourish at the major collegiate level as well. The difference is that there is no Personal Conduct Policy for collegiate players; nor a Commissioner, who at least attempts to enforce those policies, albeit too often ineffectively or arbitrarily.
Also, local law enforcement and university officials have tended to be circumspect or even hands-off when high profile college athletes are involved in criminal matters as was documented so thoroughly with respect to several Florida State football players, especially Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston, and the Baylor football team. This is much like what happened when professional athletes were involved in criminal behaviors before the Ray Rice episode outraged women’s groups and much of the public.
Super-conference football, basketball, and certain other high profile sports programs and the athletic departments in which they reside are primarily responsible for their own discipline and enforcement. The exceptions are when crimes and other bad behaviors collide with the NCAA’s antiquated and typically hypocritical rules on amateurism, or the universities or colleges are so publicly embarrassed by an incident that they are compelled to do something about it. Usually, though, the NCAA and college presidents have been like Colonel Klink in the late 1960’s World War II comedy, Hogan’s Heroes: “I see nothing. I hear nothing. I know nothing.’”
Columnist Norman Chad writing tongue in cheek about the high “rate of criminal activity among [college] football student-athletes…,” has explained that these FBS Division I “football scholars [were majoring] in criminal justice and earn[ed] class credits serving time in jail.” The direct connection between big money college athletics, diminished educational and academic values, and frequent charges of criminal-like behaviors is one of the main reasons why it makes sense for universities and colleges to separate themselves from their major sports programs. Not only are many of the so-called student-athletes being exploited, but too many of those players have victimized their college communities, particularly the girls and women who have been in close proximity.
In recent years the number of reported college campus rapes, sexual assaults, and domestic violence has indirectly implicated the entire male populations of our nation’s colleges and universities. Campuses have been described as “hunting grounds” for rapes and other types of sexual violence against women, with male student athletes comprising a disproportionate percentage of those alleged offenders. Thus, it is not surprising that the most publicized criminal allegations against intercollegiate athletes involve football and basketball players being charged with rapes and sexual assaults. Often those charges are followed by stories about how such allegations have been mishandled or largely ignored by those in charge, to the benefit of the athletes being investigated, as well as to protect the reputations of those institutions of higher learning at which these alleged crimes have occurred.
Highly publicized sexually-based criminal allegations also have been lodged against intercollegiate athletes in other major collegiate sports, including men’s lacrosse, soccer, and hockey. Moreover, male varsity athletes at academically distinguished Division III colleges and universities—most recently Harvard, Columbia, and Washington University in St. Louis—have been involved in scandals in which sexually disturbing and alarming messages were being posted online about female students and student-athletes.
A major part of the problem is that because these intercollegiate athletes generate substantial revenues and publicity for their athletic programs and universities, when they are accused of rapes, sexual assaults, domestic violence, and other antisocial behaviors, the internal investigations and resulting sanctions have tended to be biased at the expense of the victims and in favor of those players. Making matters worse, local authorities often defer to the universities in these criminal matters, who then defer to the athletic departments, especially the head coaches of the accused players.
According to a 2014 survey that U.S. Senator Clare McCaskill’s staff conducted at her request, in over 90 percent of the schools which responded, the athletic departments had a significant role in the investigations of alleged sexual assault cases involving athletes. At one fifth of those schools the athletic departments were placed directly in charge of athlete oversight and discipline. At two-fifths of those universities and colleges students were involved in adjudicating these sexual assault cases, which is a major problem when popular athletes are being accused.
Stanford, for instance, has a three-student tribunal that decides such cases. The vote must be unanimous for there to be any disciplinary measures taken. While unanimity makes sense from a due process standpoint, the idea of student-run tribunals trying criminal matters does not.
Furthermore, despite the high prevalence rate of sexual assault cases on campuses, McCaskill’s survey documented that there had been no investigations of sexual violence for the past five years at 40 percent of those schools. Such widespread enforcement deficits have inevitably encouraged and emboldened those who commit campus sexual assaults and abuses, especially when the alleged perpetrators are high profile athletes. Unfortunately, as was demonstrated so outrageously at Florida State and Baylor, the NCAA and its university and college members have learned little of value from the Penn State travesty—and implemented even less—except for strategies on how to manage these moral and legal crises more effectively to benefit themselves.