It's March Madness time. So, in honor of all things mad, let's take a look at one of the top teams entering the tourney and the madness that surrounds an alleged rape a year and a half ago. Top media outlets knew about this significant event and refused to report, except for an independent online news site called the Michigan Messenger.
According to police reports, over August 29 and August 30, 2010, a young woman attended an orientation at Michigan State University's Wonders Hall. Later that evening, she noticed two men from orientation. They had a conversation and she agreed to go to their dorm room.
The three were playing mini-basketball when the alleged victim missed a basket. They told her to take off an article of clothing and she complied because she had a tank top on under her shirt.
The players were then purposely missing baskets and they stripped until they were completely naked. One of the men blocked the doorway while the other cornered the alleged victim.
Then the room went completely dark.
The alleged victim reports she was raped repeatedly in various positions. She asked them to stop and said she didn't want it.
The alleged victim said they pinned her hands down but she managed to hit one of the players in the face (in self-defense). The player allegedly continued to rape her.
According to reports, one of the players bragged about it to a roommate.
The MSU police interviewed one of the players who corroborated the victim's statement. The player said he stopped because "it was clear she didn't want it" and understood how the victim believed she couldn't leave the room.
But the other player continued, even when he reported the alleged victim was "timid" and "not aggressive."
It's obvious from both player and alleged victim statements to the police that the woman did not want sex. She did not want sex, the men allegedly prevented her from leaving, and they chose to intimidate and imprison her.
These high profile basketball players will be in the NCAA Men's Division 1 tournament, wearing Spartan uniforms for #1 seed, Michigan State.
Why? According to local district attorney Stuart A. Dunnings III, there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute. But Michigan State Police recommended the men be charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct 1, Michigan's most serious level of sexual assault.
Despite the evidence, prosecutors maintained they "could not find any of the necessary elements" to conclude it was force and/or coercion. Dunnings must be keenly aware of the power MSU basketball players have in the community and may see their prosecution as politically risky.
But Michigan State would have to react to such an egregious act, right? They didn't.
On Nov. 18, 2010, MSU Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo was given a new contract, including $500,000. His new salary is worth $3.49 million and includes a private plane for 25 hours a year, according to USA Today.
According to emails, the two freshmen basketball players were moved "temporarily and administratively" from Wonders Hall to Spartan Village, or family housing -- which is not allowed under MSU housing guidelines. The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes (NCAVA) sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to MSU regarding the move in Dec. 2010.
The NCAVA requested documents that were leaked by employees within the MSU administration. The leaked documents were not included in the FOIA response and the NCAVA was still charged $700, up front.
After appealing directly to MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, she stated to the NCAVA that the the documents had been "discovered," that some "should not have been redacted," and they would only be released until NCAVA paid another $700. The requested documents were not forwarded by MSU except for change.org petition emails, which seemed obstructive for $1,400.
During this time, outrage spilled over into the student body. Campus protests and sit-ins took place in President Simon's office and "Expel Rapists" banners were paraded through the Jack Breslin Student Events Center during basketball games. An entire organization, Coalition Against Sexual Violence, was formed in response to this event.
Despite the student actions, there was still no coverage in the local media. The Detroit Free Press and the Lansing State Journal remained quiet. Letters to the editor went unpublished. ESPN wouldn't report the story unless the victim granted an interview. This isn't newsworthy without a victim interview?
This incident prompted attorney Wendy Murphy and I to meet with NCAA President Mark Emmert in November 2010 to propose an NCAA policy surrounding athlete violence, mirroring the requirements under Federal Title IX law. The proposal was sent to each member of the NCAA Executive Committee, which includes MSU President Simon.
I specifically broached this particular incident with Emmert as another reason for the NCAA to adopt such a policy. We also provided data showing that athletes disproportionately commit sex crimes on campus, without accountability.
The NCAA denied the request. Yet, I truly believe Emmert is concerned. He is only one man. It's the college presidents who make up the NCAA Executive Committee, like Simon, who own this crisis.
Now, it's March Madness. The biggest money-maker in college sports. And ironically, it features two top basketball players playing for the #1 seed who escaped culpability for an alleged rape. And it's been kept a big secret.
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