There has been a lot of discussion about the OTL report since my last post that needs to be addressed. Most notably the intensity of the responses to this report, particularly from Michigan State supporters and media members who cover Michigan State athletics. I want to break down these responses into a few categories and provide some additional information to help clarify some points of contention.
Why were players named who were accused of sexual assault but not charged?
This seems to be the most commonly posed question of the original ESPN report as well as their follow-up report this week in which a current MSU basketball player was named as being accused of sexual assault but not charged. Without context it may sound unfair to name this player as that has not been the practice of local media covering MSU when accusations occur; their local media has waited until charges have been filed to name the player. However, withholding names of college athletes accused but not charged with sexual assault is not a common practice nationally. Here are some examples where athletes had not been charged with sexual assault yet were still named:
Boise State– Names and pictures of the accused appear in the article, yet no charges had been made.
No criminal charges have been brought against the players.
UCLA– Name appears in article, no charge.
Charges have not been filed.
Minnesota– Name and picture appears in article, no charge.
Prosecutors declined to charge him, and a university probe cleared him of wrongdoing.
Oregon– Name and picture in article, investigation ongoing but no mention of charges.
North Carolina– Named in video report, no charges.
Houston Baptist– Names and pictures in the report, no charges.
NC State– Names and pictures in the report, no charges.
And the most famous case of a player being named with no charges, Jameis Winston at Florida State.
Perhaps the confusion comes from the common practice of not naming victims of sexual assault accusations? Claiming it is uncommon to name the accused, however, is simply not true.
Why did Izzo and Dantonio’s picture appear in a graphic with Larry Nassar about this report?
A graphic appeared on screen in the studio background of the Outside the Lines when their report aired which depicted Izzo and Dantonio in the foreground and Nassar in the background. This apparently was controversial because it could have been interpreted as all three of these men committed the same crimes? I’m not sure of specifically why this sparked so much outrage, but it is worth addressing. ESPN used this graphic to advertise their report, a report which included all three of these names. To me, its intent appeared to be to entice anyone who saw the graphic to want to read the article. I can’t imagine how anyone would see the graphic and think that all three of these men were convicted of the same crime, and if someone did have that initial reaction, wouldn’t they be likely to read the article to verify that rather than just assume their initial reaction was correct? Perhaps that is assuming too much from the average ESPN viewer, but I really don’t think it is. If a reader is able to clarify why this graphic was controversial, please explain in the comments.
This article was purely to attack Izzo and Dantonio, right?
The report aimed more at a culture at Michigan State which bred ignorance to reports of sexual assault. Were Izzo and Dantonio included as pieces of that culture? Yes. Were they the only pieces? No, far from it. A great explanation of this report’s intentions:
ESPN is not credible, therefore they should be attacked for their reporting
This is such an odd strategy to deploy. There were a ton of accusations of sexual assault committed by Michigan State athletes that this report shared. In each case, there were no charges. However:
This is the problem. Michigan State needs to explain how they have handled accusations and provide evidence that they have done so properly. The burden is not on ESPN to prove anything; they shared as much information as they were able to obtain, despite repeated attempts by Michigan State to deny them information.
In September 2014, ESPN submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to MSU for incident reports involving 301 student-athletes. The university responded to the request with two sets of records but redacted the names of student-athletes listed as suspects, witnesses or victims, according to the Court of Appeals’ opinion
Michigan State University lost a public records lawsuit against ESPN for the second time in two years.
It’s not just Michigan State supporters who are attacking ESPN either. From the most recent report:
Outside the Lines reached out Thursday afternoon to multiple university officials and Washington for comment. None responded to calls, voicemails or emails. Outside the Lines also reached out to John Truscott, who was hired recently to lead the university’s crisis communications efforts. Truscott, in response to a series of questions about the alleged incident and a request to release the police report, wrote in an email that he was not in a position to know anything about the case; when asked whether he would provide someone at the university who could answer questions or provide a statement, he responded that “I’m just saying we don’t have any information at this time but will certainly look into it. We don’t have access to police reports, nor does the police department inform anyone of actions such as this.”
Yet here is how Truscott responds on Twitter to this very same report:
Interesting that the leader of MSU’s crisis communication efforts is “not in a position to know anything about the case,” and claims that “we don’t have any information at this time” yet has the gall to then attack the reporter’s ethics on Twitter. Also, refer back to the beginning of this post to debunk the “you can’t name the accused with no charges” stance.
ESPN has shared a lot of information so far, and likely will continue to do so going forward until Michigan State starts talking. Below are a few items I’ve found or been pointed to while doing some of my own research on this story (something I suggest that everyone who has been following this story should do. Rather than spending time attacking ESPN, use that time and energy to find the truth).
The beginning of the police’s interview with Adreian Payne. Note that this is definitely not the entire interview, as some clips that OTL aired are not included in this segment, and that this segment abruptly cuts off at the end of Payne’s initial recount of events and just as clarifying questions are beginning to be asked.
Ashley Dowser’s passing is shared on an MSU message board, as she was a known visitor of the board:
And the horrific replies made to her for posing a harmless question on the board shortly before she passed away:
Izzo mentions Travis Walton by name in reference to his hometown’s proximity to that of a Michigan player’s. Note that this game was played on January 13th, nearly 2 weeks before the OTL report was released. Quote begins at the 2:30 mark and reference to Walton at around 2:50 mark.
The East Lansing District Court Register of Actions database, where you can search by name for police reports. Type in Walton,Travis (no spaces) to find all referenced police reports in the OTL report. The assault and battery report is case number 10-0792. The littering charge that it was plead down to is case number 10-0792X. Walton was living in Izzo’s basement by January 28 at the latest and the A&B was reported on January 16. Note that his listed address changes from a home address in the A&B and littering reports to an apartment in case number 1058401 which was entered on June 23, 2010. This implies that Walton had definitely moved out of Izzo’s basement by June, but it is still unknown exactly when he had moved in and out.
A former MSU athletic director (who hired Tom Izzo in the 90’s) talks about the culture at MSU. From the article:
“The buck stops at the top in almost every enterprise,” said Baker, 75, who now lives in Boynton Beach, Florida. “It goes back to the language throughout Title IX — that people in charge either knew, or should have known.
“I think the arrogance of the culture set in.”
Also from this article:
Felice Duffy, a New Haven, Connecticut, attorney who has practiced Title IX law for 40 years, said the university’s vulnerability could be tied primarily to appearances the school did not adequately report students’ complaints.
“Any employee the student believes might have responsibility to report — even a residence assistant or a janitor — which would include a medical staff, they are required to report to the Title IX coordinator if they have any reason to know of potential sexual conduct,” said Duffy, who also is a former women’s volleyball coach at Yale. “If they don’t do that, that is a problem.
“It also sounds as if there was significant information from the investigation that wasn’t provided to some survivors — and that’s a real problem. That shows cover-up. That shows a lot of things.”
Unrelated, but a crazy story about a former MSU player discussing improper benefits in a taped phone call:
This same player supposedly plotted to kill then football coach and current Board of Trustee member George Perles:
Wagner, a former Michigan State University offensive lineman who reportedly admitted to a plot to kill Spartan Coach George Perles, has answers for everybody who’s asking.
This incredible foreshadowing of Hollis’ chances at replacing Jim Delany as Big Ten commissioner someday:
Most view two current league athletic directors—Northwestern’s Jim Phillips and Michigan State’s Mark Hollis—as potential heirs apparent. But a half-dozen years or so certainly is a long time frame for candidates to survive.
A current Board of Trustee’s past suggests he’s not a great person to have on board when standing up for sexual assault victims:
If you have any additional information to share which might help clarify the situation, please include it in the comments below.