Many of you have heard about the latest sex scandal associated with BYU’s football program. For those who haven’t, four members of the football team are being investigated in connection with the following events:
The 17 year old told detectives she met the men at the mall on Sunday August 8th, and willingly went to their off campus apartment. Inside she claims she was accepted their offer to drink vodka, a pornographic DVD was playing on a TV, and that she later passed out and awoke to find herself undressed. She says she was raped by three or four men over a period of 20 to 30 minutes.
If the story is true, I feel very sad for the young woman. Unfortunately, many such events go unreported and unpunished because of ambiguities of proof and ambivalence about blame. And, of course, even those cases that are reported do not attract the same amount of media attention as this case, though the Kobe Bryant case reminds us that media attention can be a very bad thing for the vicitms.
As you might imagine, this story — on the heels of a similar event in the spring semester that led to the loss of several prominent players — has caused great consternation among BYU football fans. Perhaps not surprisingly, it has also attracted attention from people who question the role of big-time athletics at a Church-owned institution. (Note the implied assumption of a connection between big-time athletics and immorality that some accept as obvious and others might find objectionable.) While it is important to remember that the investigation is ongoing and no charges have been levelled against current team members — either by the police or by BYU — it is understandable that people would be engaged in debate over the issue.
This morning, however, I found an opinion that surprised me, at least a little bit. The Salt Lake Tribune ran a story yesterday based on an interview with Rondo Fehlberg, former BYU athletic director:
“I’m not even there anymore and it’s embarrassing to me personally,” Fehlberg said. “I feel a very real sense of responsibility.” Working in the private sector since 1999, after heading BYU’s athletic department for five years, Fehlberg believes the feeling extends to every LDS member, even those without a BYU affiliation. “You can’t separate BYU from the church,” Fehlberg said. (emphasis added)
Despite my earlier tic post about the connection between BYU athletics and the Church, Fehlberg’s comments seem silly to me. I am a BYU alum, and I do not feel personal shame because a few football players allegedly engaged in reprehensible behavior. I also do not take credit for Ken Jennings. But maybe I am the exception. Are you embarrassed by this story?
(Note that it is still far from clear whether BYU football players were involved or if involved, to what extent. At the moment, the public details are rather scant, so people are filling in the gaps with rumors. For example, Dick Harmon, the Deseret News reporter on all things related to BYU sports has reported: “According to multiple sources, players involved in the investigation told teammates that it was not they who got the girl drunk and that she never had her clothes off and just passed out. They say they tried to wake her up, insisting she had to leave. An Aug. 10 search warrant signed by 4th District Judge Lynn Davis requested detectives look for a vodka bottle. The warrant receipt returned did not indicate a vodka bottle had been found. The receipt did list a box of condoms and pornographic item recovered as evidence, items the complainant alleged would be found at the apartment…. One story that surfaced Friday is that one of the suspects agreed to a polygraph test and passed it; that two or three other BYU football players refused to take the polygraph because they didn’t trust the process.”)