Class is What it Lax

0-for-46. That is the Durham County (NC) District Attorney’s record so far in the Duke University Lacrosse scandal. 46 of the 47 members of the men’s lacrosse team underwent DNA testing stemming from allegations of rape. There were no matches to the DNA samples taken from the alleged victim’s body. This time last week I was prepared to write a news story on the scandal and how reprehensible the entire situation is. After the news of earlier this week, things have changed. I was ready to, like just about everybody not on the scandal-ridden team, condemn the team as a whole for such morally repugnant behavior. I’m not letting them off the hook by any means, but the ominous cloud of suspicion in which they were living has become somewhat less grim. My first gut reactions to the news of rape that surfaced at the prestigious “Southern Ivy” were shock and disgust. The team had hired a dancer, the victim (a black woman studying at North Carolina Central University), to perform at an off-campus party on the night of March 13th. The night ended fatefully and controversially. The entire team remained stoic as the rest of their schoolmates expressed their outrage. Myriad protests ensued. The outlook was bleak. Things were getting ugly fast. In a March 29th column by Christine Brennan in USA TODAY, the captain of the 1980 USA hockey team, Mike Eruzione, denounced the team for their behavior in the wake of the incident, saying, “It’s different from someone breaking curfew or sneaking beer into their room…That’s relatively meaningless team stuff compared to what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about an accusation of rape.” Eruzione was perplexed by their behavior as people, not just lacrosse players. “Put it this way: I wouldn’t want to be associated with a teammate who possibly committed a crime like this. Why would you want someone like that as a teammate? Why aren’t kids speaking up right now? It’s one thing to have a code of honor with teammates, but that code of honor goes out the window with something like this.” Prior to the incident, the team was very highly ranked. Since the fateful night, the school’s administration has pulled the plug on the season. The coach has resigned. For the players’ safety, the athletic communications department at Duke pulled pictures of the team members from their website. Even with news of the failed DNA tests, Duke, famous before for its amazing basketball programs and academic integrity, is now famous for its gang-rape too, regardless of whether or not the proceedings find the athletes in question to be guilty. The court of public opinion handed down its ruling swiftly and as we know, its sister court of appeals is rarely in session. I find this to be unfortunate. Even though I generally loath Duke for their success in just about everything (except football), for the foreseeable future the University’s reputation is tarnished and the lacrosse program could end up a shadow of its former self. This situation is reminiscent of UVM’s own ugly hazing scandal in 1999 involving the beloved hockey team – their season was cancelled as well and only now, 7 years later, is the program regaining some of its former luster. I am by no means whatsoever condoning the behavior of the team. The dancer claimed to have been raped, sodomized, and strangled by three white men at the party; all while being showered with racial slurs. The fact that the team would associate with anyone capable of committing such an appalling act is reason enough to condemn the young men. Young, drunk men, in groups, is a recipe for some form of disaster. In an ESPN.com Page2 column, Jason Whitlock goes on at length about this very issue and he is spot on. If there was a hint of restraint or class on the part of any of the team members at the party, this could easily have been avoided or at least curbed. The public and legal maelstrom that has ensued has stirred up race politics in an area already bogged down by social inequities (a largely white, $40,000-a-year school in a region where members of the largely black population are lucky to have a $40,000-a-year income). When bad things get worse… Odds are Duke and its lacrosse team will survive this ordeal – UVM and its hockey team are living proof of that distinct possibility. They will survive, but they should never be considered off the hook. This is a grave and deplorable incident that should serve as a warning to future generations. Hopefully posterity will bypass such stupidity and learn some class, the type of class that can’t be taught in any lecture hall.