A University of North Carolina Chapel Hill student held a press conference this week to say she was raped by a football player. The UNC sophomore says she reported the rape in February, but the accused student wasn’t suspended from the team until yesterday.
On Think, Krys Boyd talked with Jessica Luther, author of “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape,” about why colleges protect players accused of sexual assault.
The KERA Interview
Jessica Luther on …
… why colleges want to protect players:
“This is big money football. They make a lot of money on college football and there are certainly schools where football floats a lot of the athletics. But there are also big time money boosters who are very invested in football. When they win championships they get more applications. There’s a lot of stuff that’s happening around football that the university really likes.”
… why coaches want to protect players:
“Coaches themselves have a big incentive. There are actually coaches who have built-in bonuses if they make it to a bowl game or if they make it to a playoff, if they win the championship. They literally make more money doing that, so it’s important to recognize in talking about this topic that with these players there’s a system built around them to protect them in these moments, but it’s because they can then keep them on the field.”
… the role the media plays:
“People are told that they’re supposed to write about this as a sport, and they’re familiar with it as a sport. This is difficult, and I understand why it is. On one side of these cases you often have an athlete that people know, especially the beat writers. They’re already familiar with him. They have a sense of him as a person and as a player. I’ve seen them preform on the field. On the other side you often have an anonymous person who’s reported who’s disrupting the very thing that they are supposed to be talking about. And it’s easy to skew to the one side.”
… the celebrity of college football players:
“College football is interesting because these guy aren’t even getting paid … They’re like 18, 19, 20-year-old guys. They are definitely big men on campus, that’s probably the term that we would use. People want to be near them. They want to be friends with them. They want to be in that circle. And I do think that overshadows everything about this.”