We're all in favor of reducing violence against women on college campuses. We all believe women should be treated with equality and that victims of discrimination and harassment deserve justice. The problem is, in recent years, we've become so determined to get justice for victims that we've forgotten that the accused aren't always guilty. What of the justice we owe to the innocent?
The speed with which we condemn the accused has become truly frightening. No school is willing to risk its reputation, so all of them are quick to judge and eager to dole out the most severe punishments they possibly can. All students are at risk in this sort of vigilante justice system. No one's more at risk, though, than athletes, who many in the public already view with more than a little suspicion.
Tristan Wallace was a rising star, a wide receiver recruited by the University of Oregon, when he was accused by two separate women of sexual assault. Wallace admitted to having intercourse with one of the women and to making out with the other. Of course, under the pressure of public scrutiny, the school went into all-out crisis mode.
Luckily, Wallace had proof of his innocence: texts from both women expressing how excited they were to meet him and asking for additional dates. One of them said she was “glad she spent the night.” The other wrote about an upcoming date, “Yaaay, you better not break it.” The case was ultimately dropped because of “issues of consent.”
Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the matter. Wallace, looking to put his life back together, tried to transfer to another school. However, he discovered, as many students in this situation do, that his transcript listed his reason for transferring as “sexual misconduct.” Though he did eventually find another school to take him, it was not a school with the athletic profile of Oregon State, and he couldn't manage to catch the attention of any NFL scouts.
In fact, Wallace continues to seek a spot in the NFL, and despite having an excellent combine in 2021, no team has yet been willing to take a chance on him given his “history.” His accusers, meanwhile, have faced no charges.
Punishing the Innocent
The “spoiled, entitled athlete” is one of our favorite tropes. In fact, a study by the ESPN program Outside the Lines found that athletes at the 32 schools that are members of the so-called Power Five athletic conferences are more than three times more likely than their fellow students to face sexual misconduct accusations.
The fact is, we like it when stars get taken down. There's something satisfying when someone we think has too much hubris stumbles and falls. Combine that with our contemporary passion for supporting victims, and you get unbalanced viewpoints such as that of U.S. Representative Jared Polis, who has argued in terms of sexual misconduct, “If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people.”
Polis goes on to say, “[w]e're not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we're talking about them being transferred to another university, for crying out loud.” The problem with such a sentiment is that a university education is “life” and “liberty” for many, maybe most, graduates. We all know the statistics about how much money the average college graduate makes versus the average high school graduate.
But college athletes have even more on the line. A few of the lucky ones, like Wallace, have the prospect of professional sports and seven, eight, or nine-figure salaries. Even those who won't go pro, though, are often attending school on an athletic scholarship. When that scholarship is taken away, they may not be able to get a college degree at all. And, as is clear in Wallace's case, they may even have trouble getting a college to accept them.
The Bottom Line
If the spoiled athlete ever did actually exist, those days are long gone. Since 1972, Title IX has ensured every accused student is investigated, and in our current political climate, accused athletes are almost guaranteed to endure a living nightmare from which they usually don't recover. Of course, no one would ever suggest that we take allegations of sexual misconduct lightly. Still, the question remains: what do we do for the “victims” of false accusations?
To find out more or to get help with your Title IX case, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.