I haven’t said much of anything about the Duke Lacrosse team scandal, and the team members who were charged with sexual assault of a young black woman, and with good reason. They were entitled to the presumption of innocence until convicted. In my view, its foolish to speculate about the guilt of persons under an indictment until a public trial is concluded. However, now that all the charges have been dropped, I think it’s reasonable to make a few comments.
First, I’m glad that these young men are no longer facing the risk of jail time. That’s a terrible strain to be under for anyone. The prosecutor who charged them clearly lacked sufficient evidence to make his case, and the fact that this dragged on so long was shameful. I also appreciate the comments one of the indicted players made that he felt he was fortunate to have the financial and legal resources to oppose this abuse of prosecutorial power, but that not all people in our society do (a fact that these cases make evident).
Nonetheless, I think its useful to recall the circumstances that led to the indictment of these three men. The Lacrosse team was celebrating at a rented house by having an alcohol fueled party. Two team members called an escort service and, using assumed names, hired two escorts to come to the house for the price of $800. Some of the men at the party demanded that the money they paid be refunded when they were unsatisfied with the services the two women provided them. While accounts vary, it appears racial slurs were exchanged.
Now, we will never know the exact nature of what happened that night. But let’s be clear about one thing: at a minimum, the entire incident demonstrated a serious lack of judgment on the part of these young men. Hiring escorts under an assumed name to perform naked in front of a large group of drunken male college students (and for whatever other purposes), and then yelling racial epithets at the women in question, is highly objectionable behavior on many levels.
Yet, despite what no one denies happened that night, it doesn’t seem to have affected the job prospects of at least one of the team members who was indicted, the captain of the Lacrosse team, David Evans:
Exonerated team captain David Evans has been given a plum job as an analyst at New York financial giant Morgan Stanley, the company confirmed yesterday.
The firm would not say what the salary would be, but the Wall Street Journal reported it will be “well into the six-figure range” as they called the job “one of the most prestigious on Wall Street.” […]
His lawyer recently said on Larry King that he worried Evans would have trouble getting a co-op or condo in Manhattan because his name would always be associated with the case.
However, nailing down a job in one of Wall Street’s most prestigious training programs could pave the way for a lucrative career in the financial world. […]
The Journal reported that Evans got support at Morgan Stanley from CEO John Mack, a 1968 graduate of Duke and a trustee of the North Carolina university.
Meanwhile, a poll conducted by The Business Journal showed the players’ reputations have not suffered too badly after year of being dragged through the mud.
A lot of people have drawn comparisons between the situations of Rutgers Women’s basketball team, slandered as “nappy headed hos” on the Don Imus program, and the the Duke Lacrosse players who were wrongfully charged with rape by an overzealous district attorney. They assume such a comparison is a fair one: one group of white male athletes smeared by the improper actions of a prosecutor vs. a group of black female athletes wrongfully smeared by a popular radio and television entertainer. However, there really is no comparison.
The young women of Rutgers did absolutely nothing to call their characters into question other than play valiantly in defeat in their attempt to win a national collegiate championship in the sport that they loved. You cannot say that about the young men of the Duke Lacrosse team.
The Duke players held their fates in their own hands. They could have short circuited the entire incident if they had only chosen not to hire female escorts to dance and strip naked for their own personal pleasure. They could also have chosen not to hurl racial slurs at the women. I’d have a lot more sympathy for them if they hadn’t chosen to take those actions.
Was the prosecutor wrong to charge three of them for rape when he didn’t have sufficient evidence to make that charge stick. Absolutely. Were his actions in keeping evidence of exoneration from the lawyers for the Duke players a gross injustice and abuse of the legal system. No question. But these young men acted extremely poorly, and their own conduct is rightly subject to condemnation, regardless of the impropriety of the charges made against them by Mr. Nifong.
Yet despite all that, so far you don’t see any consequences in terms of their future careers for their gross lack of judgment. Quite the contrary. You see a member of the “Old Boys’ Club,” Morgan Stanley’s CEO and a Duke University trustee, John Mack, going to bat for Mr. Evans to insure that he received one of the highest paying jobs in the New York financial sector for new college graduates. Some things never change: being a white, upper class male “hath its privileges.”
When I see some white male CEO awarding plum jobs to the women of the Rutger’s basketball team as a result of the slurs and death threats that came their way as a result of another powerful white male demeaning them with racist and sexist language on his nationally televised radio and TV program, I’ll be more than happy to reconsider my conclusion that this was an another example of undeserved white male privilege. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.
For those of you who may think my commentary too harsh, or insensitive, or just flat out dead wrong let me just leave you with this little bon mot, an email message sent by a member of the Duke Lacrosse team to his fellow teammates less than 2 hours after the conclusion of the now infamous “strippers” party:
At 1:58 a.m., Ryan McFadyen, a lacrosse player from Mendham, N.J., sent an e-mail message from his Duke dorm, according to a search warrant affidavit.
“To whom it may concern,” the message read, “tommrow night, after tonights show, ive decided to have some strippers over to edens 2c. all are welcome.. however there will be no nudity.” The message said that he would kill the strippers and cut their skin off for sexual gratification “in my duke issue spandex.” The message was signed “41,” his jersey number.
What he really wrote was that he would ejaculate while cutting off their skins, but the New York Times thoughtfully spared their delicate readers’ sensibilities by employing a euphemism. I’ll certainly be curious to see what sort of job opportunities come Mr. McFadyen’s way when he graduates from Duke in a few years. Won’t you?