Athletes and Rape
This is an article from the March 23, 1992 issue
Accounts of sexual assault multiply on the sports pages
Even as Mike Tyson awaited a March 26 sentencing date in Indianapolis on his rape conviction, it was reported last week that a 31-year-old New York City woman had accused three members of the New York Mets, pitcher Dwight Gooden and outfielders Daryl Boston and Vince Coleman, of raping her on March 30, 1991, in Port St. Lucie, Fla., site of the Mets' spring training base. Last Wednesday three Hampton (Va.) University basketball players were charged with sexually assaulting a female student. And on Friday a woman withdrew a complaint that she had been raped by former NFL defensive back Fulton Walker, out of fear, said the prosecutor, that she would be "victimized once more" at a trial.
The sports headlines would seem to indicate that there is an epidemic of sexual assaults by athletes. But the allegations against the Mets, the Hampton players and Walker are just that—allegations. On the other hand Tyson isn't the only athlete to have been convicted of sexual assault in the last few years. Others include boxer Trevor Berbick, pro football players Mossy Cade and Gerald Perry, and college football players Nigel Clay and Bernard Hall.
It is possible that rape victims are simply more willing to come forward than they used to be. But it's also possible that such crimes by athletes are on the increase, and sociologists offer insights that could explain why this would be so in an era when athletes increasingly enjoy exalted status.
"Athletes are revered in society, given special privileges," says John Murphy, a St. Cloud (Minn.) State University sociologist who has studied rape patterns. "They are protected. High school and college athletes aren't held responsible for their grades, their actions. Someone's always taking care of them." The result. Murphy says, is that athletes come to believe "that money, power and fame can get them out of any trouble."
One case of an athlete's being protected came to light in January when University of South Florida officials were criticized by the state board of regents for not investigating charges involving former South Florida basketball player Marvin Taylor. Over a period of 16 months, from Oct. 1989 to Feb. '91, five women accused Taylor of offenses ranging from verbal harassment to sexual battery, yet school officials ignored their complaints even though one charge resulted in Taylor's being placed in a probation program by a Hillsborough County judge. Only last February, with his eligibility nearly complete, was Taylor kicked off the team—for a curfew violation.
Another factor that could make athletes more inclined than other men to commit sexual assault, says Murphy, is the "reinforcement of the cultural stereotype of macho-ness and maleness on athletic teams—the idea that women are sexual conquests." In fact many of the incidents involving athletes have been alleged gang rapes, and frequently those accused are teammates. Sociologists point out that teams emphasize excluding outsiders, and on men's teams the ultimate outsiders are women. They may thus be seen as less than human, as objects to be acted upon without consequence.
But there are consequences, as Mike Tyson will soon learn. Courtroom observers in Indianapolis expect Judge Patricia Gifford to sentence him to at least 10 years in prison.
A Golden Snub?
No, Kristi Yamaguchi is not a victim of Japan bashing
An article in the March 9 issue of Business Week suggested that the economic tensions between the U.S. and Japan, and the resultant wave of Japan bashing, had claimed an innocent victim: U.S. Olympic figure skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. TO MARKETERS, KRISTI YAMAGUCHI ISN'T AS GOOD AS GOLD was the Business Week headline. "Are they shying away because of her Japanese surname and looks?" the story asked.
In the article, Yamaguchi's business representative, Kevin Albrecht of International Management Group, was quoted as saying, "Kristi has no offers yet." But according to Albrecht, who talked to Business Week by telephone the day he returned from the Games in Albertville, he completed that sentence by saying, "but I've only been off the plane an hour."
Business Week stands by its story, but according to Albrecht, "It was never our intention to do anything until after the world championships [March 25-29 in Oakland]. I can assure you she's in tremendous demand. She's been getting, on average, 65 phone calls a day from people and companies with various requests, and I've personally been in touch with more than 200 companies. Her Japanese heritage has never come up." (Yamaguchi's paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Japan, and both of her parents we're born in the U.S.)
Albrecht says that after the world championships, Yamaguchi will have "several" offers from "blue-chip U.S. corporations" to choose from. "It will put figure skating in the big leagues of sports marketing," he says. "Right now Kristi's the Number One female sports property in the U.S."
Olympian Ray LeBlanc is the toast of Indianapolis
Since he and Team USA lost the bronze medal game in hockey to the Czechs at the Winter Olympics on Feb. 22, goaltender Ray LeBlanc has been on a winning streak.
Through the end of last week, the Indianapolis Ice of the minor league International Hockey League were 7-0 with LeBlanc in goal since his return from Albertville. One of those seven wins came on March 8, when the Ice defeated the Peoria Rivermen 3-2 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis. LeBlanc's parents were there and so were his inlaws; his wife, Julie; and their two children, three-year-old Ray Jr. and 13-month-old Mary Hope. During pregame ceremonies honoring LeBlanc, Indianapolis mayor Stephen Goldsmith declared March 8 Ray LeBlanc Day, and Indiana Lieutenant Governor Frank O'Bannon named LeBlanc a Sagamore of the Wabash, the state's highest honor. And Don Moreau, executive director of the Indiana State Fairgrounds, presented LeBlanc with a rosebush. It seems that when LeBlanc worked on the grounds crew at the Fairgrounds for two weeks during the 1989-90 season, his first with the Ice, one of his duties was planting rosebushes.
The day after Ray LeBlanc Day, Indiana's newest Sagamore was called up by the Ice's parent club, the Chicago Blackhawks. With the NHL adding teams in Ottawa and Tampa Bay next year, LeBlanc has a good chance of being chosen in the league's expansion draft after the season, but to be eligible for that draft, a goalie must have played at least 60 minutes for an NHL team. Chicago has Ed Belfour, last year's Rookie of the Year, firmly ensconced in the net, but when Belfour left the Blackhawks on March 9 to attend the birth of his daughter, LeBlanc was given his chance against the hapless San Jose Sharks.
Beneath a banner that read HAY RAY, WISH YOU COULD STAY, GOOD LUCK IN TAMPA BAY, LeBlanc stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced and was named first star as Chicago won 5-1. "One game doesn't make a season, but it meant an awful lot to me," said LeBlanc. "It made me eligible for the expansion draft, and it showed I could play at that level, at least for one game." By last Thursday morning LeBlanc was back at the Coliseum for practice. "I got my game," he said. "I understand the situation. There are a lot of good goalies in the NHL. It's a tough racket to get into."
After the Olympics and his moment in the big time with the Blackhawks, LeBlanc is content, for now, to lead the Ice. "It's important for me to keep playing and finish the season well," he says. "I have to keep the believers believing."
Toughening Title IX
A Supreme Court ruling should boost women's sports
Title IX, which was enacted by Congress in 1972, was intended to curb sex discrimination in schools—both in the classroom and on the playing field. But the consequences for not complying with the regulations have been minimal. In theory, alleged violations are reported to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, triggering a process that can result in a school's losing federal funds. In practice, not one of the 1,025 complaints involving sports that have been filed with the office has resulted in such a cutback.
And while Title IX has encouraged schools to offer women's programs, discrimination persists. An NCAA study released last week indicates that the average Division I school spent twice as much on men's scholarships and three times as much on men's operating expenses as it spent on women's. The study also reveals that men's coaches received an average salary of $71,511 while women's coaches got $39,177. NCAA executive director Dick Schultz called the numbers disturbing and said the NCAA would step up its efforts to get schools to comply with Title IX. He also said that "gender equity is a moral issue" for the schools.
Well, it's a legal issue too, and last month the U.S. Supreme Court gave victims of Title IX violations a potentially powerful weapon. In a unanimous decision in a nonsports case brought by a Georgia high school student, the court held that victims of sex discrimination in schools could sue for damages.
"If an athlete were personally damaged by being treated unequally, she would now have a more dramatic remedy than just complaining to the civil rights office," says John Weistart, Duke law professor and coauthor of the textbook The Law of Sports. "If, say, a woman finds out the funds for scholarships are being doled out in an unequal way, she could sue for the difference. I expect a rise in sports-specific Title IX suits. I think they'll mostly be about scholarship inequities and women coaches claiming their men peers get better paid. But even stuff like athletic dorms—a woman could sue for the economic value of the disparity between her dorm room and the man's. The court's decision definitely changes things."
It already has. In July '91 the University of New Hampshire announced that it would drop its women's tennis program. After the Supreme Court decision, 12 female tennis players hired a lawyer and threatened to sue the university. Last week the school said that it would keep women's tennis after all.
[Thumb Up]To the Greater Milwaukee Open Golf Tournament, for donating $40,000 to Milwaukee public schools. The grant will allow the schools to reinstate interscholastic golf after dropping it due to budget cuts.
[Thumb Down]To Jo-Anne Morgan, author of Fair Play, a 151-page guide to "197 of the Hottest Single athletes in the NBA." The book, which features 18 photos of the author, is published by JBJ Enterprises Inc. and is being promoted as providing "what every woman wants to know and hasn't been able to find out—until NOW!"
NORMAN CHAD: The Horror
I woke up one Mid-November morning and stared straight into my blank future, all 19 inches of it. I knew I could not escape my destiny, so I simply rolled over and with a gentle push of the remote, began my solitary, sedentary journey into the heart of darkness in televised sports: college basketball.
Swayed by the tide, swept away by the current, swallowed by the undertow, I have aimlessly drifted four months later into a no-man's-land of labyrinthine lunacy.
I speak, of course, of March Madness.
It is a swamp, and I do not own a swamp buggy.
Where, oh, where, have ESPN, ABC and CBS led me? (Et tu, Raycom?) With skies overcast and a brooding, mournful gloom in the air, it actually was a voyage begun with the best of intentions. The preseason Big Apple NIT, though, can deflate the best of intentions.
Soon enough, I was floating down the river like so much flotsam and jetsam.
Chained to my couch—yes, literally chained to the chesterfield as part of an unfavorable divorce-court ruling—I have witnessed a thousand points of blight perpetrated by a dim galaxy of sundry ex-players, ex-coaches and ex-people; it is a sport of excess—excess coaching, excess recruiting, excess cheating, excess exposure, excess hype, excess Vitale—so college basketball receives ESPN's nonstop buffet service featuring Gary Thorne and Larry Conley and Tim Brando and Len Elmore and Bob Carpenter and Dan Bonner and Barry Tompkins and Bill Raftery and Steve Physioc and Terry Holland and Mike Patrick and Dan Belluomini and myriad other broadcasting poodles to document and detail and dissect the back screens and poor spacing and dribble penetration and ball movement and transition games and up-tempo games and two-man games and good looks and great kickouts and touch passes and skip passes and entry passes, and all the while games are tumbling out madly; then there's CBS's Billy Packer—part statesman, part salesman, part analyst and all apologist for the game and its coaches—appearing on his weekly 30-minute syndicated advertorial, Billy Packer's College Basketball, wearing a hardware-chain sport coat and, after airing a recent report heavily slanted in favor of UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, saying, "Hey, enough already. Charges, charges, charges. The water has been muddied by so many charges; it's time to move on. Let's get on to another subject and let the boys play ball!" ...and indeed he did move on in those muddied waters, to the Oldsmobile Achieva Achiever of the Week and the Pizza Hut Coaches' Corner (by the way, Billy, if someone comes into my home wearing a True Value blazer, he'd better be carrying drill bits)—and, oh, boy, I'm so far down the river now, what else could possibly happen?—and sure enough, it happened as ABC, on back-to-back Sundays, did the environmentally unsound and ecologically unthinkable, taking Jim Valvano, better suited to a studio, and Dick Vitale, better suited to a straitjacket, and—no, no, no, don't do it, don't do it—putting them together on a telecast that sounded like A HERD OF CATTLE BARGING INTO GRAND CENTRAL STATION AT 5 P.M. ON A FRIDAY—The horror! The horror!—I mean, sticking Valvano and Vitale in a television booth is akin to staging an Aerosmith concert in a phone booth; and now, of course, after ESPN's Championship Week, it's time on CBS for The Big Show, The Big Dance, Your Show of Shows, The Reeeeeallly Big Show. The Big Easy, The Big Money, The Big Easy Money, yes, The Baskin-Robbins Rocky Road to the Final Four, for through the thick brush of jungle forest with ominous clouds above we soon shall behold why we've come this far, oh, how this has become an impenetrable darkness, as I suffer here in a swampy, wretched scrap heap at the bottom of the precipice where the sun never shines, just lying in the dark waiting for a slow death or a TV timeout, whichever comes first, and suddenly I see the truth as nobody else can, that the real March Madness is that if you watch this stuff long enough you wind up in an insane asylum.
500 Years Later...
Cris Colón, a 23-year-old in-fielder from Venezuela, is starting his sixth year in the Texas Rangers organization. He is no relation to his namesake, Cristóbal Colón (Spanish for Christopher Columbus), but still this could be his year.
THEY SAID IT
Princess Anne of Great Britain, expressing a distaste for golf: "I prefer to take the dogs out."
Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Great Britain, on the importance of winning the World Cup of cricket: "The world's a better place when we beat the Australians at cricket."
Replay: 15 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Maury's son, Elliott (Bump) Wills, was a would-be Texas Rangers second baseman when he appeared on our March 28, 1977, cover. Elsewhere, we wrote about Marquette, in coach Al McGuire's last season, locking up a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta. Warrior guard Jim Boylan said, "It would be nice for Coach McGuire to end up his career with an NCAA title." A week later that's just what happened.