Message to student-athletes: ‘No means no!’


Apparently based on recent events, two suggested prerequisite courses for all college studentathletes at all three NCAA division schools should be, first, an English class on the true meaning of the word “no,” and second a class on “making right choices.”

A former Hamline University men’s basketball player was recently charged with felony second-degree assault after he allegedly hit a woman in the face while in Spokane, Washington on New Year’s Eve. When she heard about the incident, Crystal Flint briefly chatted with one of her sons: “I told him that no one knew how it was going to turn, [but] somebody has to do the morally correct thing and go…at least tell somebody,” she recalls.

If Flint, herself a former University of Minnesota student-athlete, is successful in convincing her youngster to do the “morally correct thing,” it will help eradicate the notion of individual willfulness embedded in too many young people’s minds that falsely tells them that whatever they do, rightly or wrongly, is acceptable these days. This notion we adults have somehow, consciously or unconsciously, planted and watered in them, thus enabling them and bankrupting them morally.

This is even more so if the young person has been tagged a “star athlete” in his or her formative years, depriving them of understanding and of consistently hearing the word “no.” Sometimes we see a dangerous pattern developing and allow it to go unchecked.

We won’t ever know what really happened that night in Spokane, but we do know that at least two lives are forever changed for the worse as a result. “Bottom line,” emphasizes Flint — “that’s not OK.”

A Sports Illustrated study two years ago found at least 56 violent crimes committed by players at top-25 schools. Violent incidents by studentathletes, whether they involve hitting or sexual assault, whether on campus or off, have become King-Kong like.

The Twin Cities-based Sexual Violence Center says sexual violence affects everyone differently; “drastic negative effects” include anxiety, fear, anger, shame, self-blame and suicidal thoughts.

A 19-year-old woman who reported to medical authorities having been sexually assaulted while socializing with members of the Notre Dame football team, although she subsequently underwent therapy, sadly took her own life. However, at present nothing has happened to the player or players allegedly involved with the incident — they played in this year’s national championship game.

“This is not just a Notre Dame issue,” wrote Dave Zirinin his “Edge of Sports” column. “At too many universities, too many football players are schooled to see women as the spoils of being a campus God.”

University of Minnesota graduate student Katie Heaney studied 12 years of local and state newspaper coverage of college sexual assaults (2000-2012) and found 16 out of 36 incidents involved student- athletes. In “She Got What She Wanted” (April 2012), Heaney surmised that news stories “particularly highlight rapes made up of one or more sensationalistic attributes…particularly when the accused rapist is Black and his victim White,” and concluded that “newspaper coverage of college rape employs victim-blaming language that holds rape victims to be partly (or wholly) accountable for their assaults.”

I clearly remember during my college days hearing about student-athletes doing crazy things and, excuse the pun, getting away with murder. One in particular involved a group of knuckleheads “pulling [a] train” on an underage young woman at a party.

They later were brought up on charges. Thankfully she didn’t die, but as previously discussed, the young woman was most likely scarred for life by the BMOC behavior. Such acts, Heaney wrote, are too often committed by “sports teams and fraternities alike” and “serve to induct men into roles of powerful masculinity, a position that…is often correlated with the subjugation of women.”

This isn’t about sports or bad boys in sports behaving badly, but rather the illusion of power, which too often is far worse than actual power. “It’s ultimately about power and control,” confirms Rebecca Norman, a development director of a Portland, Oregon shelter.

Sadly, it’s also about making wrong choices and about too many young men misunderstanding that two-letter word we all learn to say as infants: “No!”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader response to