Right Field

Auburn Football Program Accused of Corruption?

The sports-world is abuzz over this piece by former New York Times reporter Selena Roberts for a blog called Roopstigo on corruption within the Auburn football program.

However there are problems popping up with Roberts’s story. She gave an interview to AL.com in defense of the piece. An excerpt:

Roberts, an Auburn graduate, talked about her story on the AU football program, the allegations and subsequent denials by key figures, with AL.com Wednesday night. A transcript of the eight-minute conversation is below.

AL.comMike Blanc is now denying some of the things he said to you. What’s your take on that?

Roberts: Well, I think I mentioned this to you before in an email. It takes a lot of courage to speak the truth and to go out and have some conviction about . . . a subject that, let’s face it, at Auburn, draws a lot of backlash. I think it’s unfortunate that he’s taking that stance, but given the pressure he’s under I can see how it happens.

AL.com: Do you think he changed his story after this story got so big today?

Roberts: I think any time athletes talk and have interviews, I think they’re used to, maybe a smaller market or something like that, I don’t know. I don’t know why he would change his stance, to be honest with you. I don’t know what goes on in his head.

AL.comNeiko Thorpe says he was misquoted in the story.

Roberts: Like I said, I think it’s very difficult to take a strong stance and to tell the truth and then to have to deal with the consequences in a place where I think the story even shows that there is a great deal of pressure to keep what’s in-house, in-house. I think the entire sort of umbrella of the story explains just what’s at risk for people who step outside the bounds. In some ways, it almost dovetails with the story that they may not know exactly what’s going on. They may feel that kind of pressure to then alter what they said to me.

A couple of things. One: she doesn’t have the players on tape? It’s not just one player saying she stretched the truth, but many. And two, Selena Roberts is a name recognizable to anyone who followed the 2006 Duke Lacrosse rape case. Let’s take a walk down memory lane thanks to our friends at the Media Research Center, who were critical of her reporting for the New York Times from the get-go:

As the “case” winds down to its ignominious end, Roberts returned to the subject on Sunday (Times Select $ required), whining about some of the “loquacious bullies” who emailed her in support ofthe lacrosse players and against her biased columns- “several hostile lacrosse advocates have burned a hole in my in-box as well over the past year.”

But Roberts had nothing to say on Sunday about local North Carolina district attorney Michael Nifong’s unethical behavior in pushing rape charges against the Duke lacrosse players (the most she could muster was to call him “one part district attorney, one part clueless Columbo”), or the assumptions of guilt by liberal Duke faculty, or the false charges from the alleged rape victim.

Roberts started off with snottiness: “The ubiquitous ‘Innocent’ wristbands of the yellow ‘LiveStrong’ variety have become a wardrobe accessory akin to a watch for some Duke lacrosse supporters.”

Later on, Roberts tried to conflate the false rape charges with what she considers athletic misbehavior on campus (as if non-athlete students have never done similar things).

“What happens if all the charges are dismissed? There is a tendency to conflate the alleged crime at the Duke lacrosse team kegger on March 13, 2006, with the irrefutable culture of misogyny, racial animus and athlete entitlement that went unrestrained that night.

“Porn-style photos of two exotic dancers – one of whom was the accuser – emerged from cellphone camera downloads. Heated exchanges between players and dancers occurred. Racial slurs were heard. And in an ‘American Psycho’ reference, a repulsive e-mail message depicting the skinning of strippers was sent by a player, Ryan McFadyen, who, to his credit, has since apologized.”

Note the double standard: While the woman who made false charges of rape has yet to be named in the media, but Roberts still feels free to criticize lacrosse players by name in print.

Keep in mind, the MRC piece above was written a year before Nifong was eventually disbarred for his conduct in this case.

As far as the Auburn story from Roberts, I’m not putting much faith in its accuracy at this point. Stay tuned for updates.

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