From university to university: How football stars thwart punishment

first_imgFootball is a violent game.Anyone who watches it, who loves it, will tell you that.It’s a game about perseverance, about hard blows and ferocious tackles, about indomitable will and raw masculinity honed into 60 minutes of adrenaline-fueled aggression. The violence is disciplined into first downs and legal hits, but at its core, football taps into a love of physical competition.Fans cheer for it on the gridiron. In the confines of the white lines painted on the grass of a football field, the violence is understandable, enjoyable. But what happens when that violence follows our stars off the field?The game of football is riddled with accusations of domestic and sexual violence. And as more cases come to the surface, the question remains — what can be done?The name of the gameAlthough male athletes only make up 3.3 percent of the student body of an average college campus, a study by the National Coalition Against Violent Student Athletes found that they account for 19 percent of the sexual assaults on their campuses.Additionally, the study found that one in every three reported campus sexual assaults was committed by a student-athlete. Over 300 cases of sexual assault committed by student-athletes have been filed in the Nexis — a comprehensive database for public records and legal information — in the last two decades alone.The issue of sexual assault in athletics is at its peak when applied tofootball. Last year, both sexual and domestic violence in football dominated the headlines throughout the college and NFL seasons.USC was in the spotlight in August 2016 after former linebacker Osa Masina was charged with rape in Utah and California. Although Masina and former teammate Don Hill were both removed from the football team immediately following their arrest, and were later expelled by USC, the incident was thrown into a pile of other NCAA football indiscretions headlined by Joe Mixon’s return to Oklahoma’s starting lineup and the Baylor football sexual assault scandal.The past few seasons of college football have opened the eyes of fans, coaches and players to the underlying issue of violence in the sport. And at USC, Masina’s case in particular forced the administration to review the ways the school tackles the issue when dealing with an athlete.Although USC athletes are often treated differently than other students, discipline for sexual misconduct is applied in the exact same way regardless of a student’s athletic status, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry. This is meant to provide all students with a level playing field, where no athlete is protected by their on-field contributions to the school.“It is the student code of conduct, not the student-athlete code of conduct,” Carry said. “The University has one code of conduct, and it is for all students. We follow the procedure to the letter for any member of the community. Our procedures are indifferent to what you participate in as a member of the University community.”A spokesperson for USC Athletics said that the athletics department defers to student affairs in handling student conduct issues regarding student-athletes.“This assures that student-athletes are treated like all students and do not receive special treatment because of their athletic standing,” the spokesperson said in an email to the Daily Trojan.This situation is not unfamiliar for USC Athletics — in the last three decades, the school has seen four separate sexual assault charges or accusations, including one involving former quarterback Mark Sanchez in 2006. Only Masina’s case resulted in an expulsion, although former tight end Bryce Dixon was banned from the football team despite being allowed to re-enroll at USC. Two of the accused former players are now NFL athletes.Violence off the field is not an issue that is unique to USC, and it continues all the way into the NFL. In 2015, Vice reported that 44 active NFL players charged with or accused of sexual or domestic violence in their careers as college and professional athletes were still playing in the NFL. Three were starting quarterbacks. On average, each brought in a yearly salary of more than $2 million.Some of these men were acquitted by juries. Others were acquitted in the eyes of fans and owners who value on-the-field performance over off-the-field disciplinary issues. It’s a debate that tears at front offices throughout the league — what should teams do when facing a question between a talented future and an allegedly violent past?The answer is typically the same. In a business like football, aptitude trumps anything else.Second chance universitiesBut what happens when a player is dismissed?In the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs rode the success of wide receiver Tyreek Hill all the way to an AFC West championship, less than three years after he pinned his ex-girlfriend to the wall with one hand around her throat, beating her face with his other fist. The incident occurred in his first season as a wide receiver at Oklahoma State University. Hill pled guilty to domestic abuse after defending himself as not guilty for half a year and in the meantime, he was kicked out of the university.Now, he’s a starter for an NFL team, successful, beloved by fans after a breakout season in Kansas City. The question is obvious — how did a man who was kicked out of Oklahoma State for beating his pregnant girlfriend bloody end up back in the NFL?When players are removed from their Division I programs, they often find a new home in a lower division or junior college program. These schools feed off of the talent of athletes with Division I talent who couldn’t cut it for myriad reasons — grades, attitudes or student conduct violations.The vast majority of transfers to junior colleges or Division III programs are simply athletes who needed a second shot at college ball. They use a year or two in a less prestigious program to pull up their grades, rehab from an injury or earn new looks from other potential programs. This system helps many athletes find their footing in the competitive world of football — stars such as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson got their start in these schools.But a small percentage of these athletes are overcoming past violence to get ahead. For instance, Lane College accepted a transfer last August despite his dismissal from Vanderbilt University due to five charges of aggravated rape. Another player charged in the same case transferred to Alcorn State University, a Division I school that already fields a registered sex offender.This is how Hill found his way back to a university even after his expulsion. He was picked up by the University of West Alabama, then by the Chiefs in the fifth round of the draft. Many teams dropped Hill from their draft boards even after he ran an impressive 4.24-second 40-yard dash.But teams such as the Chiefs, who were grasping for any opportunity to kick-start their offense, were willing to ignore past crimes in order to bring in new talent. The team’s front office did its best to address the issue, with head coach Andy Reid issuing statements about Hill’s improvement.“This country gives you a second chance, if you handle yourself the right way,” Reid said following a Chiefs practice in an interview.But despite Reid’s sureness, the discomfort of handling the issue was clear. Even more uncomfortable was the decision fans were forced to make every Sunday — whether or not to cheer for a former domestic abuser.“It always gets into those fine lines of second chances,” NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth said during Kansas City’s game against Denver last season. “Maybe you don’t deserve a second chance sometimes.”Masina awaits pending litigation for the charges in Utah, the charges in Los Angeles having been dropped in March. If he is cleared, Masina, like Hill, could be picked up by a smaller school and funneled back into the NFL.It’s not an easy path to follow. But history has proven that even when athletes commit crimes and receive punishments in full, a future in the NFL is still in the cards. The result is a system in which athletes circumvent punishments through raw talent and a faith in second chances.Looking downfieldThis can’t last forever.Across the country, college and professional programs are beginning to catch on. The University of Indiana recently enacted a policy that bans its athletics programs from recruiting or adding any new players with histories of domestic or sexual violence. And the NFL refused to invite star athletes like Joe Mixon, who was suspended for a season after breaking a female student’s jaw in his freshman year.But the solution involves more than simply preventing athletes with a history of violence from reentering the system. The NCAA developed a nationwide training program called Step UP!, which aims to teach administrators, coaches and athletes how to approach issues ranging from drug addiction to domestic violence and sexual assault.Through the program, former Arizona and NFL wide receiver Syndric Steptoe has used his knowledge as a former athlete to advocate for preventing assaults. In order to truly solve the issue of violence in athletics, Steptoe believes that the culture of male-dominant sports must change as a whole.The main problem, he said, is the treatment that comes with an athlete’s stardom.Steptoe watched this culture unfold in his own life, and it started young — high school coaches scouted youth leagues, mentoring prospects from a young age. Those same coaches built plays and programs around their stars when they reached high school. They also rearranged players’ class schedule, wrote passes to get them out of class early to travel to games and talked to teachers to smooth over failed midterms or papers.When a star reaches a college like USC, Steptoe said, the bubble surrounding them has only widened. From personalized meal plans to one-on-one tutoring sessions, universities do their best to cater to the physical and mental needs of their stars in order to maintain their academic eligibility and overall well-being. But at the same time, Steptoe believes that this level of attention can serve to feed the egos and ignore the missteps of a school’s biggest stars.“There’s this idea of what it means to be a star, what it means to be a man,” Steptoe said. “We have to change the little things, the little ways that we’re talking to our boys. When we’re looking at the sport, we have to look at how we’re raising kids in it and start at the very beginning of it.”According to Step UP! founder Becky Bell, this is where the emphasis of preventative education must begin. Her program teaches that attitudes surrounding sexual assault are often communicated in day-to-day conversations. For athletes, this means that violence prevention must come from coaches, trainers and fellow teammates.“A lot of this is breaking down the stigma and the culture that has been built up for so long surrounding athletics,” Bell said. “We need, as a whole, to be having honest conversations about these topics and to be encouraging our students and our athletes to be having the same honest conversations. It’s as small as correcting an inappropriate comment in the locker room, but those little details [can] be the start of finding a bigger solution.”Bell is quick to emphasize that there isn’t a single solution for ending sexual assault in athletics. But the path toward finding an answer involves these steps — putting pressure on athletes to correct behavior on a daily basis while implementing no-tolerance policies at the administrative level.The future of sexual assault prevention in athletics is young and still uncertain, Bell says. However, she believes that college programs and NFL front offices now have the tools, the information and the resources to begin fighting back against this issue.For now, the ball is in their hands.last_img read more

100-bed ETU Earmarked for Ganta

first_imgIf everything goes well, a 100-bed Ebola Treatment Unit is expected to be built in Ganta City toward curbing the spread of Ebola, an official of the visiting US Army disclosed.Leading an 11-man assessment team to Ganta, US Army Col. Moldrem Lewton said they had come to ascertain the condition of the area where the construction of the ETU will be and, if everything goes well, they will come back to construct the 100 bed ETU.“This is a potential site, upon completing our assessment; we will go back make our report to our bosses for final decision to be taken,” he said.The US soldiers, accompanied by two captains of from Liberian Army, touched down in their large military helicopters at about 2pm local time at the Methodist Airstrip in Ganta. They reportedly had just arrived from Voinjama, Lofa County. Hundreds of residents of Ganta crowded the airstrip to receive them with happiness and singing, saying, “Ebola must go, we tire hearing about Ebola, Ebola must go!”This is the US soldiers’ second visit to Nimba since their arrival in Liberia to help fight the deadly Ebola Virus.Earlier this month, the first assessment team, which traveled by road, arrived in Ganta where several locations for the construction of ETU were shown to them by the Administrator of the Ganta Hospital.The first team extended their trip to Tappita where another area was shown to them for possible Ebola Treatment Unit construction.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

‘War’ on gangs readied

first_imgFueled by a growing perception that the Antelope Valley is being overrun by criminal street gangs, two prominent community leaders have started a grass-roots organization whose controversial name appears to be all but an unofficial call to arms. “Antelope Valley War on Gangs and Crime” is headed by attorney R. Rex Parris and Lancaster Baptist Church Pastor Paul Chappell. The group will hold its first meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at Chappell’s church, and the pair expects to draw more than 1,000 residents. Parris said the meeting will be attended by a “who’s-who” of civic and community leaders including Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, Lancaster City Manager Bob LaSala and Palmdale City Manager Steve Williams, among others. Parris said he and Chappell developed the idea for the group over breakfast about six months ago. He said it’s become apparent to him and others that the Antelope Valley’s gang problem has reached “crisis proportions,” and that an energized citizenry might be the area’s only hope of turning the tide. “I think we’ve reached the point where we can’t rely on public officials to take care of it, because obviously they’re not,” Parris said. Parris said the meeting will be an opportunity to develop ideas that extend beyond traditional crime-fighting plans such as increasing law enforcement and Neighborhood Watch groups. He said the group will seek to draw on the Antelope Valley’s best minds for more imaginative solutions, noting that the Feb. 26 meeting will give local residents an opportunity to brainstorm in a public forum. “We’re not saying we have all the answers,” Parris said. “What we’re saying is that this problem has reached an intolerable level, and that if we don’t do something it will only get worse.” Some local residents who say they share the group’s concern about gangs are worried its name could produce unintended consequences that would only exacerbate the problem, such as provoking a violent response from gangs, and possibly even encouraging vigilantism. “I’m obviously against gangs, but I just feel like this could do more bad than good,” Lancaster resident Kathy Branning said. “If somebody’s hostile to a hostile group, that’s just going to make them more hostile.” Branning said she finds the group’s association with a Christian institution especially troublesome. “It’s like they’re trying to make this thing about revenge, and that’s not really our place, especially in the church,” she said. “It says in the Bible that we’re supposed to leave that to God.” Another Lancaster resident said the group’s name suggests that its leadership is out of touch with kids who ultimately join gangs because they feel neglected by society. “I think the fact that they’re calling it `the war on gangs’ just shows it’s something they can’t really relate to,” Lancaster resident Jimmy Freeman said. Even the group’s most ardent supporters, such as Lancaster Mayor Henry Hearns, are uncomfortable with it’s name. “I wouldn’t have used that language, but I’m going to support them 100 percent,” Hearns said. “I think what they’re doing is absolutely wonderful.” Reactions from several other local residents queried varied. A Lancaster man who wished not to be identified said the Antelope Valley’s crime problem is so bad “I don’t go to sleep without a shotgun under my bed” and that it “makes me want to be a vigilante.” A Palmdale woman said she supports the group’s idealism but said personal experience has led her to doubt it will be effective in engaging the citizenry. She said most of her neighbors are fearful of gangs and mistrustful of law enforcement. The woman, who identified herself as Nancy, said a close friend’s husband was a shooting death victim in a case that remains unsolved. She believes neighbors have information that would be helpful to law enforcement in solving the case but are unwilling to come forward. “I’ll do my part and call the police if I know anything, but if nobody else does, how’s it going to work?” she said. Lancaster resident Josh Blackman said he supports the group, but doubts it will make much of a difference. He said the Antelope Valley’s problem has compelled most of his friends and relatives to leave the state. He said he plans to move to Boise, Idaho, once he sells his home. “It’s done,” Blackman said. “They’ve already lost.” Parris said he’s concerned about the Antelope Valley becoming a “dumping ground” for violent criminals and parolees as the city of Los Angeles seeks to ship its problems elsewhere amid its own gang crackdown. He said his concerns about Antelope Valley crime are shared by those in law enforcement circles, noting that some local sheriff’s deputies have printed T-shirts that say “Compton North.” Parris said there is still hope that the problem can be eradicated. He said that unlike Los Angeles, where gangs have existed for more than 100 years, the culture of acceptance does not yet exist in the Antelope Valley. He acknowledged, however, that it soon could be. “This is something that’s literally a plague that’s killing people, and we’re not going to give up until we’ve exhausted all our resources,” Parris said. “If we have to drive on dirt roads, then we will.” gideon.rubin@dailynews.com (661) 267-7802 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

Sanchez admits mental exhaustion amid poor Utd start

first_img0Shares0000Sanchez has managed just one goal in his first 10 appearances since arriving at Old Trafford and revealed he expected better of himself after his January move.LONDON, United Kingdom, Mar 23 – Alexis Sanchez has admitted to struggling with mental exhaustion after a disappointing start to life at Manchester United.Sanchez has managed just one goal in his first 10 appearances since arriving at Old Trafford and revealed he expected better of himself after his January move. After four years at Arsenal, Sanchez has found it hard to adapt to his new club and was dropped to the bench for last weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final victory over Brighton.He is currently on international duty with Chile, despite initially asking to miss Saturday’s friendly against Sweden, and the 29-year-old appears to be in need of rest.Sanchez posted a message on Instagram which read: “I know you are tired. I know you are psychologically and emotionally exhausted. But you have to smile and continue.”The United forward told the Chilean media on Thursday: “The change of club was something that was very abrupt – it was the first time I’ve changed clubs in January – but many things have happened in my life that are difficult.”He added: “As I am self-demanding, I expected something better. After my arrival at United, it was hard to change everything very quickly. I even hesitated to come here [to Sweden].”0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more