As a public rape survivor, I’ve been asked to weigh in on some difficult discussions. One of those is Baylor and Art Briles. When the Pepper Hamilton report regarding Baylor first broke in the media I was devastated. It was a traumatic experience for me and it caused me to revisit my own 1998 gang-rape and the mishandling of my case by the people and the system that was supposed to protect me, but didn’t. Once again I was faced with the horrifying truth that society values winning and football more than they do human life. The thought that nothing had changed in almost 20 years made me nauseous.
I was pleased when Ken Starr and Art Briles were fired. My first thought was “Good, finally a school is taking sexual violence seriously.” Before this, it was unheard of for a prominent (winning) coach to be fired. One could easily draw the conclusion that it was so unheard of that he must have really done something wrong to warrant being fired.
I was asked by Sports Illustrated – Campus Rush to weigh in on the issue and I wrote an op-ed calling for Baylor to get the “death penalty.” The NCAA has handed down the death penalty before for other infractions and what could be worse than a university and athletic department covering up sexual violence? The lifelong detrimental effects of rape are far worse than paying players. I received some backlash for my opinion and that was OK. I expect it as a public figure.
It wasn’t long after I published my opinion that Coach Grobe called me and asked if I would come talk to his players. I was dumbfounded to say the least. The last institution I expected to hear from was Baylor, but I wanted to help so I went. My time in Waco was good. You could tell immediately that Coach Grobe cared about his team and he wanted to help heal the kids that were left behind from the “scandal.” I spent three hours with Coach Grobe over dinner and I downloaded on to him everything that I wanted him to know. I left that dinner knowing that Coach Grobe “got it” and I felt confident that he would be part of the solution at Baylor.
My experience with the team was also good. The young men sat quietly and listened. They weren’t on their phones or falling asleep in their seats. They were genuinely engaged and that was very encouraging for me. However, directly after my talk, a football coaching staff member pulled me aside and in a very disturbing manner began to give me his “opinion.” He was obviously very angry and defensive about what was happening. I was shocked by what he was saying. He knew that I had a voice in the media and he was doing nothing but making Baylor look guilty and he was validating for me that the football culture was toxic and that all the claims being made against them and Art Briles were probably true.
I left that man’s office feeling defeated. If he was any indication of how the rest of the staff felt, then the talk I just gave to the football team was useless. He was going to undo any good that I had done. I notified the Executive Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs about this encounter because I felt it was imperative for Coach Grobe to know. I chose not to disclose this unsettling meeting with the media directly after my talk because I didn’t want to shift focus from the young men on the football team who wanted to be part of the solution. I wanted to support them. I recognize that there are young men who are innocent on this team. There are men on this team that are unjustly suffering from the decisions of their administration – and that’s not ok. I also recognize that this issue is not isolated to the football team – this is a campus wide institutional issue.
On the subject of Art Briles, as it stands now, with the information the public has, I believe that his termination is justifiable. And until new information comes out exonerating his involvement, I am strongly against him coaching anywhere else. I am receiving a lot of backlash on this opinion, but I stand behind it and no amount of twitter bullying and direct message threats are going to make me change my mind. I will not be bullied into silence.
In regards to Baylor sanctions… I called for the death penalty, but obviously that is not going to happen. In a recent article I was quoted as saying “They shouldn’t be winning anyway because there should be sanctions.” In a Utopian world the NCAA would have policies in place to deal with these situations. They don’t so they are doing nothing in regards to what happened at Baylor. I think this is wrong and that is why I have lobbied the NCAA with my son Darius Adams to ban violent athletes. The NCAA responded to a petition we started at www.change.org/banviolentathletes and is now convening a committee to deal with these issues. I will be on that committee. The best thing we can do is take the responsibility of adjudicating violent athletes out of the hands of the coaching staff and the Universities who benefit monetarily from keeping violent offenders on their teams and allow a third party unbiased group to determine the fate of these players.
As far as Baylor’s winning season… The players have worked hard and they are winning. You can’t take that from them. However, there is nothing wrong with expressing compassion for the victims and understanding that “winning” may be hurtful for them. It’s not easy to be victimized by an institution and an athletic department and then watch them succeed and win. On some basic human level everyone should understand this difficult dynamic. If your best friend robbed you and got away with it and then was given the Citizen of the Year award you might feel a certain way about it.
The other thing that happens with winning is that there is the opportunity for victims to be forgotten. And that is the truth of the ugly business of sports in our country. Something bad happens and society wants to forget it, move on, and get back to winning. But the victims don’t get to forget and move on. It is the rapists decision to take someone’s body without their consent, but it is the victim that pays for that crime over and over and over day after day for the rest of their lives. I spent 16 years wanting to kill myself. Every day I would fantasize about peeling off my skin so that I had fresh skin that hadn’t been violated by my rapists. I would fantasize about getting cancer so that I could die a hero’s death and not a coward’s death by suicide.
We cannot forget the victims in this.
What Baylor should be doing right now is being TRANSPARENT. They should hold themselves accountable for their wrongdoings, apologize to the victims, honor the victim’s demands for support services (of which they submitted a Survivor Letter to the Board detailing their requests and last I heard have not even gotten a response from the Board) and do whatever necessary to build a better future for all Baylor students, including their athletes.