Athlete

Sports are a huge part of college life. Sporting events and games are a popular source of entertainment for students nationwide, and with 23 teams and 744 student athletes, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is no exception.

While athletes contribute to our entertainment, some commit acts that should render them ineligible to participate in such activities. When someone makes a mistake, they usually have to face the consequences for it. But, it seems athletes are given a free pass when it comes to sexual misconduct.

With the news of a Husker football player facing potential charges in California for revenge porn and child pornography, it is important to talk about how athletes always seem to get let off the hook.

Recent studies have shown college athletes are three times more likely to be accused of Title IX violations compared to other students. Approximately 6.3 percent of all Title IX complaints on U.S. college campuses are against student athletes despite these students making up, on average, only 1.7 percent of the student body.

Despite this likelihood to be involved in issues of sexual impropriety, revelations of schools covering up sexual misconduct among their athletes suggest the notoriety of these students is put above safety and justice for victims.

Athletes should have to face consequences for sexual misconduct rather than be protected by the institutions that profit from them. People should be held to the same standards, regardless of their sporting successes or the importance of their reputations.

Student athletes are notorious for getting away with actions, often sexual in nature, because the schools they attend are willing to cover up these incidents. For instance, Baylor University has faced multiple charges regarding the covering up of atrocious acts by the school’s football team.

In a recent lawsuit against Baylor, an unnamed female alleged she was gang raped by up to eight football players in 2012. Though multiple members of the athletic department were notified of the incident, the victim’s claims were not properly responded to until May 2017. This victim and her family begged the university to respond to this horrendous event, but coaching staff at the time took the side of the football players. These athletes continued to play despite these accusations.

This is not an uncommon result in situations like this. The victim had to wait five years before her case was taken seriously. During that time, she had to see her alleged rapists walking around campus, facing no consequences as she suffered from the trauma of the situation.

Another case of covering up indecency of student athletes involves University of Arizona running back Orlando Bradford, who was arrested in 2016 on 15 counts of domestic violence against multiple ex-girlfriends. Despite these horrible actions, UA staff and coaches, who had been aware of Bradford’s violent tendencies toward women, chose to do nothing.

Campus police and a senior associate athletic director had been notified by an ex-girlfriend that Bradford had choked her in the past, but a short investigation resulted in the case being closed. Furthermore, a lawsuit against the university alleges staff did little to nothing to address cases of sexual violence brought forth against members of the football team, choosing not to act against Bradford or other players because of their importance to the team. Bradford was given permission to play throughout his season until his arrest in 2016.

The issue of athletes being linked to sexual assault is not an individual university issue. It’s a problem that stems deep within the college culture. Evidence has shown that administrators and staff from multiple college campuses have discouraged students from reporting cases or have downplayed victim stories in order to protect their star students.

This is a systemic problem with roots deep inside institutions. There has always been a deep connection between universities and their athletes, so protecting athletes in turn means protecting the institution. This reflex to protect accused athletes is not exclusive to just a few institutions — controversy over response to sexual assault claims against athletes has emerged at numerous private and public universities, and national surveys indicate appalling numbers of universities fail to properly investigate sexual assault involving all students, not just athletes.

While universities often fail to properly investigate issues of sexual assault, student athletes in particular are protected from the consequences of their heinous actions because they bring in millions of dollars to their institutions. Statistics show college athletes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association bring in approximately $1 billion in total every year. UNL’s athletic department itself brought in over $112.1 million in revenue in 2015-16. Because of this, universities and institutions will do anything to shelter these students and their reputations, even if it means putting other students at risk.

The audacity of universities to prioritize their student athletes over their other students is, quite frankly, outrageous. Students should feel safe, protected and heard on their own campuses. The damage that comes along with the dismissal of sexual assault cases can be prevented by stopping these circumstances and requiring that athletes own up to their actions. They should not be treated as being above rules and regulations.

For every large case of sexual misconduct, there are likely countless others swept under the rug. Athletes should not be given the ability to assault and harm people without punishment. No one should be exempt from consequences simply for his or her athletic abilities.

These victims deserve justice for the vicious crimes against them. They should not be silenced in order to protect athletes and the monetary gain that comes with them. There needs to be an end to this idea that athletes can do whatever they want. It’s time universities stop allowing them to hide under their helmets, and instead force them to own up to their actions and face the consequences.

Alice Nguyen is a sophomore journalism major. Reach her at opinion@dailynebraskan.com or via @DNopinion.