Speaking at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Convention on Wednesday, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill said the notion of protecting athletes in sexual assault cases “needs to be over,” according to USA Today.
McCaskill praised recent changes such as the SEC banning schools from taking transfers who have been dismissed from a previous school for sexual assault, domestic violence and sexual violence, but said more needs to be done.
“More and more people are beginning to understand that this has been a dirty little secret in higher education for a long, long time,” said McCaskill. “The secret is especially troublesome in the college sports world when the athletic departments are often first to know about allegations made against their athletes.
“They rely on the failure of the criminal justice system, which allows them the luxury of looking the other way. An athletic director should not see themselves as a shield to the student-athlete. Indeed, the mandate you have when you join your university is an obligation to protect other students and the campus at large.”
McCaskill said athletes should be given no special treatment by school administrators or athletic departments and urged the athletic directors in attendance to ask their police to hold athletes to the same standards as any citizen, according to USA Today.
A report published Sunday by ESPN’s Outside the Lines showed that football and men’s basketball players at Florida and Florida State avoided criminal charges or prosecution two-thirds of the time on average in incidents studied from 2009 to 2014.
It was a number OTL said is “far exceeding” the number of non-athlete males in the same age range that avoided charges or prosecution.
OTL also found other factors involved athletic departments inserting themselves into investigations by trying to control how, when and where police talked with athletes; athletic departments having legal counsel at their disposal to appear at crime scenes or police departments, sometimes even before athletes requested legal counsel; and high profiles of athletes sometimes affecting if and how cases were brought to police and investigated.
- Molly Geary and Mike Fiammetta