Public Rape Allegations Against Athletes Can Cause Harm That Is Hard to Undo
SLC’s Jesse Burke notes that we live in a society of people who get much of their news from the social media. But the news also includes unfounded rumors and unproven allegations. Sometimes, there can be a lot of damage to reputation that doesn’t go away if the subject of a rumor or allegation is later vindicated.
Burke points to a recent Title IX lawsuit filed against Oregon State University and Nebraska football coach Mike Riley. The lawsuit, filed by a former student, claims that she was raped by the cousin of a football player. Riley coached at Oregon State, but had moved on prior to the alleged rape, which happened almost sixteen years earlier. The lawsuit alleges that Riley failed to correct a “sexually violent culture” in Oregon State’s football program.
Burke wonders why this claim is just now surfacing. And, of course, the only thing the public knows now is the allegations in the lawsuit. There are few, if any, facts in any news stories on the subject. Burke says that there have been rape allegations against several athletes in recent weeks. But none of these matters have been heard in a court of law, so no one knows what the outcome will be.
Burke notes that many of us are quick to assume the worst when stories like these become news. But rushing to judgment is a dangerous thing and can have lasting consequences. The textbook case of getting it all wrong involved three college athletes and what is known as the Duke Lacrosse Case. Three white athletes were accused of raping a black stripper. The Durham prosecuting attorney went after the young men with a vengeance, and the case received enormous publicity. In the end, the case turned out to be false, the prosecutor was disbarred, and many accusers ended up with egg on their faces. And the stain on the reputations of the young men was hard to erase.
Burke says that athletes and celebrities are just people, like the rest of us, and we all deserve to receive the famous presumption in the law: innocent until proven guilty.
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