As anybody who has read my comments on basketball knows, I have an intense dislike of the Duke men’s basketball team, mostly due to their fans, who combine the arrogance typical of fans of a dominant program with a sort of snobbery regarding their own class and cleverness. This is particularly aggravating given the institutional contrast between Duke’s status as an elite private university and their main competitors’ status as larger, more diverse public institutions– it pushes my class consciousness buttons, and makes their antics all the more annoying.
In a weird way, this has prevented me from saying anything about the legal situation of their lacrosse team, because any comments I make are likely to be dismissed by Duke fans as mere partisan griping. And besides, I figured it was better to give them the benefit of the doubt, and let the legal system run its course. And the university was, as far as I could tell, doing basically the right thing by suspending the season– I would’ve preferred to see a faster and more complete shut-down, but what they did is about as much as you could expect from a Division I school.
The latest set of revelations, resulting from the unsealing of some court documents, including a warrant to search the dorm room of one of the students (images available at The Smoking Gun), is pretty strong stuff. It lays out the story in considerable detail, and provides a full description of the evidence the police had gathered to that point.
(Cut to push thoroughly vile details off the front page)
The bare-bones evidence is pretty much what you would expect for a rape/sexual assault case: The vicitim was treated by medical personnel, and had injuries consistent with rape. Some of her belongings were found at the scene of the alleged attack.
The really bad part, though, is the text of an email sent by one of the players shortly after the incident (quoting from the Inside Higher Ed story):
The e-mail message from a player to other players came shortly after a party at which a woman — hired to appear at the party as a dancer — says she was raped by three lacrosse players. In the e-mail message, the player said he would hire strippers for another party at which he planned “on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex.” (Text is verbatim from the e-mail.)
Now, I’ve known a lot of asshole lacrosse players, and they’re assholes even by the standards of other athletes–it’s a toxic combination of contact-sport machismo and rich-white-kid elitism. This, though, is positively subhuman. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the lawyer who had to spin this as a positive:
“While the language in the e-mail is vile, the e-mail itself is perfectly consistent with the boys’ unequivocal assertion that no sexual assault took place that evening,” said the statement from Robert Ekstrand. He noted that the e-mail was sent shortly after the party took place and shows that “its writer is completely unaware that any act or event remotely similar to what has been alleged ever occurred.”
Whatever the ultimate resolution of the legal case– the police evidence laid out in the warrant looks pretty strong, but then, it’s a warrant application, not a trial– this kid does not deserve to be a privileged athlete on a college campus. He needs to be in counselling somewhere, preferably without access to sharp objects.
To their credit, the university has pulled the plug on the team– the rest of their season has been cancelled, the coach has resigned (presumably under pressure), and internal investigations have been launched. This probably should’ve happened about three weeks ago, but at least they’re catching up. If the team culture is toxic enough to produce that email, that’s a bare minimum– at this point, I think they ought to eliminate the lacrosse team completely, for at least four years (that is, until anyone connected with the current mess is gone from campus).
This is thoroughly appalling. And I would say that whether it was Duke, or Maryland, or Union, or Williams. There’s absolutely no place for that sort of thing in civilized society, let alone on a college campus.