“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is a weekly column from the Managing Editor of WARR
The women’s suffrage movement became one of the many important movements in U.S. history because it was a movement that was fighting for gender equality behind the voting polls. Because of the movement we have the 19th Amendment, one of the first certifications that showed that women have the same citizen rights as men.
In more recent years, the fight for women to be seen as men in the court of law has taken some interesting twists, including men being put in positions we’ve typically seen women as crusaders. Actor Terry Crews has recently dealt with a court case regarding his experience with sexual abuse by former William Morris Endeavor talent agent Adam Venit, making him an honest ally in the larger #MeToo movement, which exists currently as the movement du jour in regards to the progression of women’s rights and equal protection under the law.
Women’s voices were heard in that hundreds-of-years old social justice movement to get what they deserve and Crews is getting his voice heard by Congress. When it comes to the entertainment industry we’re getting to see real movement forward in this area, movement that’s spread to other industries to varying degrees.
So with all this pervasive change going on for the better, why does the narrative seem so stilted for protection of women within and surrounding top college sports programs and professional leagues, especially when it comes to domestic violence or sexual abuse?
We’ve been sadly reminded of this struggle as Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer became the latest failure in the domestic abuse realm after he failed to report allegations of the sort involving his former subordinate Zach Smith and Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney, which occurred in 2015. Reported evidence shows that Meyer was aware of the abuse and played a role in its cover-up from other officials at OSU. Zach Smith has since been fired and a judge granted his ex-wife an order of protection against him.
After being on administrative leave, the legendary coach Meyer was announced as suspended for OSU’s first three games of the 2018 season on Thursday. Softening the blow regardless of any stance of whether or not Meyer was hammered with this punishment is the detail that in the last two games he can run the weekly team practices and game plans, but just cannot coach the games.
This so-called suspension against a bigger-than-life coaching presence who has shown a pattern of unethical behavior in his ascendant career shows the continued narrative in so-called big-time “amateur” sports that winning games and protecting the image of the school’s program is more important than the overall well being of any one person or any large group for that matter, and that is a narrative that is sickening and needs to change.
Ohio State is not the only educational institution that has chosen winning games within their respective sports programs over domestic violence. Michigan State covered up sexual abuse and violence allegations against women for at least 16 of their football players over the last decade.
Among the shameful acts that caused major change to be in order for the home of the Spartans: a former basketball player was allowed to remain as an assistant coach after he received criminal charges for knocking out a female student at a bar. Two basketball players also dodged any type of punishment from the school after a female student accused them of rape. And the centerpiece of MSU’s controversial run — Larry Nassar, the former doctor at the school that pled guilty to domestically abusing nearly 200 girls and women during his time within Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee.
Elsewhere in the NCAA’s “don’t give a F” Hall of Fame is Baylor University where it has been estimated that 19 football players have been accused of sexual or physical assault, including four gang rapes, since 2011. Another estimate, included in a lawsuit against the university, alleges that the number is far higher, with as many as 31 football players involved in at least 52 “acts of rape”, according to school officials. Former coach Art Briles led the football program to its greatest modern success through much of this disgusting behavior and rightfully was relieved of duties in its wake.
Even under current coach Matt Rhule, there have been challenging issues rising within the Baylor program, including a domestic violence accusation against their star nickel back Travon Blanchard and a strength coach who was arrested for prostitution. Both incidents occurred in 2017, according to the Dallas News.
Penn State famously covered up the child sexual abuse allegations against long-time assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky during his tenure at the university on legendary coach Joe Paterno’s staff. Before Paterno died, he admitted to knowing about the allegations. Shortly after the Penn State news broke, former Syracuse men’s basketball assistant Bernie Fine faced sexual abuse allegations from two men that were ball boys for the team during his time. Again a legendary head coach, Jim Boeheim, was admittedly aware of the allegations, bringing further shame on his at-times controversial career.
We can discuss the validity of the end results of each recent college controversy regarding sexual assault, but Meyer holding on to his job is another instance of power skirting responsibility at the highest levels of sport. Meyer should have been fired for not doing his job in reporting the proven allegations of abuse against his friend and co-worker.
No matter what gender takes the offense, domestic violence and sexual abuse are serious acts that can never be overlooked and should be handled with care and sincerity by institutions who’s missions are supposed to be to protect and uphold truth and knowledge. Many top-tier universities have chosen the historical success of a basketball or football program and not smearing said programs’ reputations over the well-being of victims regardless of how well-proven their allegations. Ohio State has just added their name to this shameful list.
Victims of abuse are more important than any program’s wins and the revenue that can come with those wins. I can only hope one day our major educational institutions will make an effort for the ultimate win and handle future matters of this sort seriously with professional tact and correct priorities.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio