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UGH: My Google Alerts On Sports And Sexual Assault Blew Up Today


I have a bunch of google alerts around sports and sexual assault. They pick stuff up every day, sometimes way off topic but always SOMETHING substantial. It’s depressing, to say the least. And I just don’t have time to write about it all.

Today, I logged into my RSS reader where I aggregate all of my google alerts and I had so many hits and on so many different stories (often I get a bunch of hits but it’s the same story over and over again).

So, here’s a taste of what I am reading about JUST within the last 24 hours:


The NCAA, Football Recruits, and Sexual Assault


A couple of weeks ago, a Wisconsin football recruit – Dominic Cizauskas – was charged with third-degree sexual assault for allegedly raping a woman on campus in December in her dorm room. He was initially arrested in early January (the charges, though, didn’t come until 3 days after Cizauskas played for Mukwonago’s high school basketball team in the WIAA state tournament in Madison – supposedly the timing had nothing to do with the tournament but rather the availability of Cizauskas’ attorney).

Here is how ESPN summarizes what happened in December:

According to a criminal complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court, Cizauskas showed up at the accuser’s dorm room Dec. 14 after exchanging text messages with her. Cizauskas, who the woman said had been drinking, allegedly forced the woman to have non-consensual sex. She told police that she and Cizauskas previously had engaged in consensual sex, most recently in June 2013, but she since had tried to avoid him.

He had verbally committed to Wisconsin though had not yet officially signed a letter of intent. Other outlets note that Cizauskas was on an official campus visit. It’s pretty interesting to me that ESPN does not mention that.

Today Cizauskas waived his right to a preliminary hearing and pled not guilty.

ESPN tells us that “NCAA rules prohibit Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen or any school officials from commenting publicly about unsigned recruits.”

Convenient. I mean, Cizauskas was on campus because of the football program and was staying with a UW linebacker that weekend.

Campus visits are strange things. In the NCAA Division I Manual, the NCAA lays out in detail who can have contact with the recruit and for how long. On paper, it’s rather rigid. But in practice, of course, campus visits and the recruitment process are…a problem when it comes to HOW major schools recruit major players.

In September of last year, I wrote a piece for The Atlantic that is about the issues surrounding recruitment of football players are major Division I schools and sex, sexual assault, and issues of consent:

The NCAA severely restricts what schools can use to lure players to their campus; according to the NCAA Division I Manual, programs cannot give recruits “any financial aid or other benefits,” including cash, clothing, or merchandise. In place of these financial benefits, programs use the recruits’ official 48-hour visit to show them a good time, an implicit promise of what their years on campus will be like if they choose to attend that university. [...]

Benedict and Keteyian argue that leading these young men on with “the promise of an intimate relationship is the sort of thing that can trump sold-out stadiums, state-of-the-art facilities, Nike deals and schedules packed with nationally televised games.” Even though Earps says that no one in college football programs tells hostesses to “lead on” recruits, programs are well aware of how instrumental these women are in helping them land top athletes.

I’m quoting this not to say that this particular instance is one that has to do with hostess programs or a football program making implicit promises that include access to women on campus, but I’ll just say that when I heard that a football recruit had been arrested for raping a woman on the campus of the school he was likely to attend, I assumed it was his official campus visit.

The NCAA draws a hard line saying that coaches and school officials cannot comment on the case because he was a recruit but not yet signed. But, well, the victim was a student on their campus. That the NCAA’s rules trump the campus officials’ ability to speak out against sexual violence is a problem. And if they don’t actually prevent that, Wisconsin appears plenty happy to hide behind that excuse.

And I’m especially bothered with this because part of what I uncovered in my reporting at the Atlantic is that sex is not actually officially off limits as part of recruiting, as the NCAA likes people to imagine it is. There is literally no where that I could locate where a team could be punished for encouraging sex between recruits and people on campus as a means to lure those recruits to their university.

So, to recap: NCAA says NO to school officials addressing violence on their campus because a football recruit was involved but SHRUGS when it comes to making even a half-assed, at-least-on-paper position against schools using sex to recruit players.

The NCAA: what is it good for exactly?

The Baltimore Ravens And Domestic Abuse, cont.


The day after I wrote my piece about the Baltimore Ravens “aggressively” supporting Ray Rice following his indict on third-degree aggravated assault charges against his fiancée, Janay Palmer, news broke that Rice and Palmer had married.

The Ravens, on their site under the heading of “News”, wrote:

Ray Rice and his fiancée Janay Palmer were married Friday night in a private ceremony, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The ceremony was one day after Rice was indicted on a third-degree aggravated assault charge stemming from a domestic violence incident between the couple. Rice and Palmer were both arrested in February after the altercation at an Atlantic City Casino, but a grand jury ultimately decided not to pursue charges against Palmer.

Rice and Palmer have remained together since the incident, and have undergone counseling to help their relationship. The wedding ceremony had been planned for a few weeks.

The Ravens have maintained their support for Rice since the incident, and Owner Steve Bisciotti said in an interview this week that he will be on the team in 2014.

“He’ll be back with the team. He’ll definitely be back,” Bisciotti said. “I know how terribly disappointing it is to Ray and his fiancée, how embarrassing it is for them. I have to have compassion towards him.”

[UPDATE: @CharmCitySpence on Twitter told me that in the next section of this post I both present Palmer as a statistic and imply that at least some of Palmer's choices are invalid. I, of course, don't want to do that to Palmer because no one can know her life but her and I would never - ever - tell anyone what choices they should make. But at the same time I do want to address the horrible claims being made in social media and the comment sections of posts about the news of their marriage, as well as provide a larger context. Mainly because those claims are validating the Ravens' choice, which I disagree with, and because that larger context complicates what the Ravens wish to view as a simple whoops-he-made-one-mistake narrative.

Domestic abuse is woefully underreported, and what we know about domestic violence is not as simple as a check box and is almost exclusively filtered through the lens of the legal system. @CharmCitySpence suggested the book A Troubled Marriage: Domestic Violence and the Legal System, which argues that the legal framework around DV strips away victims' autonomy and agency. I've already downloaded it to my e-reader.

I'm going to leave the following in tact but will be thinking about how to write about this in a way that gives agency to the victim and does not paint her choices as invalid.]

Here are reasons that domestic abuse victims stay with their partners (from DomesticAbuseShelter.org)

  • She fears the unknown
  • She worries about her children: fear of supporting a child on her own or because abuser threatens to take child away if she leaves
  • She has a fear of dying: “Statistics show that women who leave their batterers are at a 75% greater risk of being killed by the batterer than those who stay.” And 1/3 of all women who die in homicides in the US are killed by their partner.
  • He promises to change
  • She feels guilty for provoking him or she believes that she deserves to be abused
  • She loves him a lot
  • She is economically dependent on her abuser
  • She fears being judged if she leaves, by her religion, her family, her culture, her community, etc.
  • She is happy when he is not abusive

Here is what I keep thinking about after I heard this news: Palmer and Rice have a daughter together. They have been together for nearly 10 years. There is nothing easy about leaving a long-term partner and the other parent of your child when physical abuse and all of the psychological aspects are not present.

Alongside the claim that this was a one-time mistake on Rice’s part (which I discussed in my previous post), is the ongoing argument that domestic violence is just what sometimes happens when someone drinks. Sometimes they do things they normally wouldn’t do. Bullshit:

A prevailing myth about domestic violence is that alcohol and drugs are the major causes of domestic abuse. In reality, some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent. Alcohol allows the abuser to justify his abusive behavior as a result of the alcohol. While an abuser’s use of alcohol may have an effect on the severity of the abuse or the ease with which the abuser can justify his actions, an abuser does not become violent “because” drinking causes him to lose control of his temper. … Domestic violence is used to exert power and control over another; it does not represent a loss of control.

Finally, the Ravens’ owner’s words: “I know how terribly disappointing it is to Ray and his fiancée, how embarrassing it is for them. I have to have compassion towards him.” Disappointing? Embarrassing? Compassion towards HIM?

Perhaps what is disappointing is watching an NFL team aggressively support a domestic abuser because of how much money they have tied up in him. Maybe what is embarrassing are the reports about this abuse that seem to minimize it and make it seem like it really isn’t a big deal.

I’m saving my compassion for Janay Palmer and her daughter Rayven.

FYI: The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The Baltimore Ravens And Domestic Abuse


Here is a tweet today from the Baltimore Ravens:

Tweet from the Baltimore Ravens reads: "LFW: #Ravens "aggressively" supporting Ray Rice; hard-hitting draft safety visiting."

“LFW: #Ravens “aggressively” supporting Ray Rice; hard-hitting draft safety visiting.”

Here is what they included about Rice at the link in the tweet (emphasis mine):

With Ray Rice facing a possible three to five years in prison after his indictment by a grand jury Thursday on third-degree aggravated assault, the Ravens quickly issued a statement supporting their running back.

“This is part of the due process for Ray. We know there is more to Ray Rice than this one incident,” the statement said.

Even with increased charges from Rice’s initial arrest, the Ravens are standing by Rice the person, without condoning his actions.

“They’re not just supporting Rice,” They’re aggressively doing so,” wrote ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.

“The Ravens didn’t have to say anything. They could’ve left it as this is part of the due process. But, as with every step in this embarrassing matter — from his initial arrest to the TMZ video of him dragging his fiancée out of the elevator — the Ravens have made it clear that they’re standing by Rice. A cynic would say the Ravens are sticking with Rice because they would lose $5.5 million in cap space by cutting Rice. I believe the Ravens are keeping Rice based on how he conducted himself in the community since joining the Ravens in 2008. … The Ravens have never said Rice is innocent. They’re backing the one-time model citizen who made a mistake, albeit a very serious and public one.”

Ray Rice dragged his unconscious fiancé out of an elevator. There is video of it all over the internet. A grand jury indicted him on stronger charges than most people suspected after they saw the evidence presented by prosecutor. And here is how the prosecutor describes what third-degree aggravated assault means:

“attempting to cause significant bodily injury, and/or purposely or knowing causing such injury, and/or recklessly causing such injury under extreme indifference to the value of human life.”


On purpose. Indifference to the value of human life. Wanting to cause significant bodily injury.

Domestic abusers often ramp up their abuse; aggravated assault doesn’t come out of nowhere, no matter what the Ravens or ESPN says.

And, of course, Rice is not alone when it comes to being an NFL player who has committed violence against a woman. Last month, Zerlina Maxwell wrote a post titled, “Will the Ray Rice controversy be a wake-up call for the NFL on domestic violence?” and a week later Dave Zirin published a piece titled, “After Darren Sharper, the NFL Must Address Violence Against Women.”

In light of the “it was only one time” argument from the Ravens, I offer this bit from Zirin’s piece:

I would also add that the NFL rightly saw the bullying culture in the Miami Dolphins locker room, even if it was atypical, as utterly unacceptable. Even one incident was one incident too many. In other words, even one instance of violence against women should be compelling the NFL to act. But instead, we get silence.

In November of last year, Minnesota Vikings’ cornerback A. J. Jefferson was “arrested and charged with one count of felony domestic assault following a fight with his girlfriend.” The result? “Jefferson was booked into jail about 7 a.m. Monday. The Vikings released him from the team three hours later.”

So, if “a cynic would say the Ravens are sticking with Rice because they would lose $5.5 million in cap space by cutting Rice,” then put me in the “cynic” column.

Also, when a Baltimore paper publishes a post called “Ray Rice’s image could be tarnished by assault charge” following the release of the video, it’s easy to see that when big-time football players commit violence against women, the concern is not for the victim but rather how this will damage the player’s image.

To answer Maxwell’s question - ”Will the Ray Rice controversy be a wake-up call for the NFL on domestic violence?” – No.

Darren Sharper and Denying Systemic Problems


[Content Note: rape, domestic violence]

I’m going to let Dave Zirin introduce Darren Sharper:

In 2010, Darren Sharper was the hero of New Orleans: an All-Pro safety who led the Saints to Super Bowl glory. Now retired and working for the NFL Network, Darren Sharper has been formally charged with multiple sexual assaults and is suspected to have raped at least nine women across five states. In California, he has been arrested and charged with drugging the drinks of two women before raping them. His bail was not only set at $1 million but Judge Renee Korn ordered that a condition of his release would be a legal agreement to not be alone with women he didn’t know before October 30. Korn said, “The court considers these crimes quite serious and has to evaluate the protection of the public.”

What Sharper has done is horrific. He is a serial rapist. And we should care about his specific case.

The sports media seems to care little about the Sharper case. No surprise. Because of how terrible it is, it’s VERY easy to say, “Well, *that* guy is bad,” and move on.But as Zirin’s piece at The Nation indicates, Sharper is part of a much larger issue of violence against women and intimate partner violence in the NFL and beyond.

We cannot see this as an isolated incident. We cannot let Sharper be a scapegoat. To prove my point, below is a list of articles about athletes connected to cases of VAW or IPV over the last 18 days, since news of Sharper’s case first broke.

Let’s have a much bigger conversation than just about a single athlete or a single league. Clearly it’s needed.

Do Women Play Sports? According To The Covers Of Sports Illustrated, No, They Don’t.

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 3.51.57 PM

2013: No. No female athletes appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2013. They were only the cover as fans, a model (Kate Upton in a swimsuit and once in a baseball uniform), and a police officer. No Brittney Griner or Diana Nyad. No Serena Williams (!!!!).

2012: Not really (there were 63 total covers in 2012). Kayla Harrison was only female athlete on cover and not in uniform. She is paired with a male athlete in a cover story on sexual abuse in sports. The Title IX anniversary issue had only words on the cover. Only other woman on a cover was Kate Upton on the Swimsuit cover.

2011: There was 1 (out of 81)! Hope Solo in a soccer uniform! On the Sports Illustrated cover about the Women’s World Cup. Then there was Pat Summitt as the “Sportswoman Of The Year.” But, of course, she didn’t get the cover all to herself. Coach K was also on the cover because he was “Sportsman Of The Year.” And then the swimsuit issue, of course.

2010: Serena, at Wimbledon, hitting a ball with her racquet. Lindsey Vonn and Julie Mancuso pose with Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller in their ski uniforms and Olympics medals. Vonn also got her own cover that year but it didn’t come without controversy. Also, the swimsuit issue. There were 80 total covers that year.

2009: None of the 104 covers that year showed a female athlete. The only two women on covers were a golfer’s wife and, of course, the swimsuit issue.

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