Thursday, June 15, 2017

June 15, 2017

I have written about Brenda Tracy’s courageous efforts in the past. To watch some of the vile vitriol directed her way in the name of wins and losses is pathetic at times. This week more of that hatred reared its ugly head as she spearheaded a campaign that ultimately ended when Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich ‘left the team.’ While it is a sort of win for the cause Ms. Tracy is fighting, it was a cop-out by Pat Casey. Rather than make the tough decision he allowed the athlete to exit with simple statements. There were no pledges from Casey to make a concerted effort to help rid college athletics of the scourge that is sexual violence among its athletes; no promises to do a better job vetting his athletes; just a statement. 

One would expect more of Casey. Except this is not the first time he has looked past behavior in pursuit of a title. 

In April of 2007, as the Beavers were winding their way to a second consecutive baseball national championship, Michael Lissman, a star first baseman, was charged with four counts of theft from an elderly family member. Casey allowed Lissman to continue playing despite the eventual conviction of Lissman. Lissman was never suspended. It is this culture – where winning means more than humanity – that is the real battle for all those seeking dignity. 

This is a long, hard battle. An uphill battle which Tracy does not fight alone, but could certainly use more company.

There are many who will wrongly assume that this is about Ducks versus Beavers; that I would never dare make such proclamations against a Duck players. Sadly they do not know just how wrong they are. So let me clue them in.

Last fall, a member of our website sent me a private email about two football players, Darrian Franklin and Tristen Wallace, who had sexually assaulted a female with whom he was acquainted. I write for a recruiting website, so I do not do a ton of 'investigative' reporting around sexual assault allegations. But these were serious enough that I was not going to simply sit by and idly watch. 

I talked with my publisher and we both agreed it really was not our place to write a story about this; so I sent a private message to two outlets; the Oregon Daily Emerald and The Oregonian. I did not send it anonymously and I did not send it to a blind email; I sent the information directly to two reporters. I worked for well over a month with one of them attemtpting to help him get a story. We even framed a question that could have shed some light on the topic following the Civil War loss. Given the chance to announce their suspension, Mark Helfrich chose to side-step the question about the availability of the players in question.

Shortly after that, the other writer I had contacted released the story. This is not about Ducks, Beavers, Huskies or even sports. This is about compassion and empathy; this is about having a voice that says no more.Brenda Tracy is that voice and we must follow her lead. We must become our own beacons of hope and goodness. Change happens when millions of individual voices become one.