When college athletes, usually football or basketball players, commit crimes, the stories are reported in starkly different terms than when anyone else commits a similar crime. I’ve noticed, over the last few months, that the rape case at Vanderbilt is no exception. Coverage of the case encourages a culture that devalues women.
When writers and commentators discuss the Vanderbilt rape case, they primarily are concerned about: 1) the impact this case will have on the Vanderbilt football program as a whole 2) whether Vanderbilt will have all its starters for the next game, including the starting quarterback who now appears to be in some way implicated, and 3) that the prosecutor is possibly being “over-zealous” in prosecuting those involved.
At what point did the gang rape of an unconscious young woman become about football? Why is no one, at Vanderbilt University or elsewhere, discussing how to change a culture in which a horrific gang rape is covered up so that the football season isn’t ruined? Why are we talking about football at all? The fact that these monsters play football is completely irrelevant. They have been indicted on felony charges, which means that a grand jury determined that they probably committed the crime, and should no longer be college students, and by extension college athletes, at any school.
Chris Boyd, the player who pleaded guilty to a crime in connection with covering up the rape, has been “suspended” from the football team. His football eligibility is irrelevant; he should be expelled from the university. Does Vanderbilt have no code of conduct for students? One would hope that Vanderbilt, which proudly touts its purported "academics over athletics" philosophy, would do better. Yet the school has managed to stall, not release information, and try to hush things up at every opportunity.
Even more shocking, Jaborian McKenzie, one of the accused Vanderbilt rapists, immediately became a starter at Alcorn State University after being dismissed from Vanderbilt him, while on bond for aggravated rape. Alcorn State said that it didn’t “sufficiently examine” the charges against him before allowing him to play. Apparently, Alcorn State's first reaction to a woman being violently gang-raped in a Vanderbilt dorm was "how can we capitalize on this to win some football games?"