Tom Izzo Must Address Rape And Sexual Assault Allegations

Tom Izzo Must Address Rape And Sexual Assault Allegations

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Tom Izzo Must Address Rape And Sexual Assault Allegations

Latest report alleges that three Spartan basketball players raped an 18-year old Michigan State student in April of 2015….

Contact @crowleysullivan

The season is over.

The Michigan State basketball team – indeed, the entire program – deserves tremendous credit for earning a regular season Big Ten Championship, for winning an astounding 30 games, and for giving Spartan fans much to celebrate during what turned into a winter of discontent.

The players themselves should be forever proud of the way in which they conducted themselves.

They were caught in the middle of a firestorm of controversy stemming from the university’s leadership failures that led to the tragic crimes of Larry Nassar’s sexual assault rampage that spanned a twenty year period on the Michigan State University campus.

These kids – the Spartan basketball players – had nothing to do with the Nassar crimes and they certainly didn’t sign up for being peppered with questions about the university’s approach to handling sexual assault when they decided to come to Michigan State to play basketball.

But when it comes to the man in charge – he and so many Spartans don’t like to hear it but he’s the one who is responsible for every aspect of the program and it’s his duty to lead and to communicate and to represent the university in the best ways possible.

Tom Izzo has not led.

And I’m not talking about finding solutions to the challenges of the 2-3 matchup zone.

Tom Izzo has not communicated appropriately.

When he has communicated, he’s been defiant, awkward, and, too often, insensitively tone deaf when the time calls for transparency, intellect, compassion, and care.

Today, reports chronicle allegations of rape being perpetrated by three Michigan State basketball players in 2015, days after the Spartans fell to Duke in the Final Four.

https://www.freep.com/story/sports/college/michigan-state/2018/04/09/michigan-state-basketball-rape-accusations/501088002/

https://www.freep.com/story/sports/college/michigan-state/spartans/2018/04/09/michigan-state-basketball-rape/500624002/

The allegations are beyond disturbing and they contain details that appear to be compelling.

One of the bigger issues I’ve had a hard time getting my head around over the last few months is the way Izzo and Michigan State handled the incident that incoming freshmen Adreian Payne and Keith Appling found themselves embroiled in as they were moving into their dorm before they had even started their freshman year at Michigan State.

Payne and Appling, it was alleged, sexually assaulted another student in the dorm that night – August 31st, 2010.

Payne and Appling had not yet attended a class as incoming freshman and, obviously, had not yet participated in an official Michigan State basketball practice.

Yet, the video of Payne meeting with Michigan State University Police shows a young man answering questions – honestly and candidly – about an incident that appeared to be disturbing.

It’s important to note that neither Payne nor Appling was charged with anything in the aftermath of this incient.

But, what I’ve struggled with – and what I struggle with even more now after today’s allegations of the three unidentified players raping an 18-year old Michigan State student in 2015 – is the questions related to how this incident was handled by the man responsible for these players and how Tom Izzo communicated with his program regarding the dangers of even allowing yourself to get into a position where a sexual assault might be INTERPRETED to have occurred.

Based on the lawsuit that was filed Monday, it is not unfair to speculate that between the time of the August 31st, 2010 Payne/Appling incident and the alleged April 2015 rape by three Spartan basketball players, there might not have been an appropriate amount of discussion, counseling, education, etc regarding the obvious horrors of sexual assault, rape, or even inappropriate behavior with women.

If sexual assault and all of the tragic ramifications stemming from it were discussed and were a major point of emphasis within the program for which Izzo is responsible, how is it that there are three publicly recognized series of allegations since 2010, two of which were never reported to the police?

Unfortunately, there is also the reality that current Spartan basketball player, Brock Washington, was charged last week with misdemeanor assault after a criminal sexual assault investigation.

When reports of sexual assault and the potential mishandling of the allegations by Michigan State became public this past winter, Izzo’s responses were, at best, wobbly.

And Izzo said, time and again, that he’d talk when the time was right.

His focus was on the survivors of Nassar’s crimes, the team, and his preparations for the next games and the Tournament ahead.

He often used “soon” as a description for when he’d address everything.

Then, just before he began to prepare his team for the NCAA Tournament, he announced, quite defiantly, that he was only going to answer questions about basketball and that he had already addressed the controversies and was done discussing it.

Honest question – when did Izzo fully, completely, and transparently address anything at all related to the culture he has created and leads on a daily basis?

I get a lot of flack for continuing to offer commentary on this topic and for continuing to “go after” Izzo.

What I can’t understand is how any Spartan, when they’re being truly honest with themselves, can’t be thoroughly disappointed in the lack of communication, the lack of leadership, the flat out ignoring of a problem that is a national epidemic, the flippant and, again, insensitively tone deaf approach to responding to very legitimate questions that just haven’t been addressed, let alone answered.

I’ve believed all along that if and when Izzo did address the Spartan community, we’d all come to realize that he has, indeed, handled things appropriately.

I can’t help but doubt that now.

The only way any of us will have a shot at knowing our school’s basketball program has the integrity necessary – truly necessary – for us to be proud of is for the man in charge to step up and talk with us.

Sadly, I’m beginning to think that’s not ever really going to happen.

 

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