Rutgers University fired its head basketball coach amid viewer outrage after ESPN aired a controversial video depicting him hurling insults and basketballs at his players. It wasn’t the plan Rutgers came up with months ago when the video first surfaced.
In the video, Mike Rice appeared to hurl basketballs at players’ heads and shins, shove them and shout profane gay slurs at them. The school’s athletic director issued a statement that essentially suggested that given the choice to fire Rice or to “rehabilitate” him, which included a plan for anger management, the athletic director chose the latter. That was back in December when the video was brought to the school’s attention.
All hell broke loose on Tuesday, when ESPN aired portions of the video, including one clip in which Rice appeared to refer to a player as a “f****** f*****,” using the F-word followed by a six-letter gay slur.
Rice now calls his actions “deeply regrettable” and says he’s sorry. At least there’s that.
Some groups, however, say that’s simply not enough. Gay rights groups, of course, are demanding answers. But so are some of the school’s own faculty and graduates: 13 faculty members demanded Rutgers President Robert Barchi resign for what they called “inexcusable handling” of the situation. An alum suggested that there wasn’t an employee of the school who wouldn’t have been “dismissed immediately” if it’d been a faculty member instead of a coach.
And I’m sure they’re right about that. A nice double standard there.
What I find so appalling is the fact that Rutgers seems to have learned nothing from the suicide of one of its students two years ago. You may recall Tyler Clemente, a 20-year-old who killed himself after his roommate secretly used a webcam to broadcast images of him kissing another man in their dorm room. Though policies were allegedly put into place to make Rutgers “more friendly” to gay students, its athletic department apparently didn’t get those memos.
Oh, wait — their athletes can’t be gay because they’re athletes. That must be how it works, right? It appears to be acceptable on some level to question the manhood of male student athletes in front of their teammates and use gay slurs when they don’t perform as expected. And for these young men, who may already feel shame from the slur itself, they may fear even more shame — of looking like “less of a man” — if they choose to “tattle” on their coach for his remarks.
If they’re real men, they should be able to stand some name calling. If they can’t take it, they’re “little mama’s boys.” Or “little girls,” depending on how far you want to take that absurdity.
The abuse, by its nature, protects itself with the threat of even worse shame.
Those young men deserve better. We all do. When the “need” to win allows that kind of behavior to happen, everyone loses.