By: Taylor Zachary ~Staff Writer~
Central to the lifelong process of growing in age and experience – a process of both learning and un-learning, defining and redefining – is the notion of integrity. In childhood, we are given a salient depiction of what it means to have integrity: integrity is who you are when no one is watching.
However, somewhere along the way our integrity is compromised by our public image. In this struggle between integrity and image, more often than not, image wins. Consequently, it becomes the infatuation with our image that makes our integrity questionable.
This is where the integrity of the Xavier basketball program comes into question.
To be clear, “Xavier Men’s Basketball” does not solely refer to the players; It refers to Xavier’s entire collegiate basketball system, made up of student fans, funders, employees and coaches, as well as players.
The prevailing image of Xavier men’s basketball seems to be of no substantial difference than that of most other prominent athletic programs at a university. This public image is considered positive, family friendly and safe. On our Student Hub, the Twitter feed features positive images of basketball players engaging in community service, grinding at practice and being celebrated by student and non-student fans.
But a score of daily tweets and an effective marketing strategy do not tell the whole story.
What does tell the whole story, however, is investigating the integrity of Xavier men’s basketball beyond its public image. Consider the last five years in which the men’s basketball team has dealt with four significant blows to its public image: the rape charges filed against Dez Wells, domestic violence charges filed against Jalen Reynolds, disorderly conduct charges filed against JP Macura and criminal damaging charges filed against Miles Davis. Without question, these instances are antithetical to the public image of the Xavier men’s basketball program.
So it is no surprise that when these events happened, the Xavier community was reminded that it has no direct relationship to the integrity or culture of the program. But there is certainly a relationship.
In fact, these instances gave us insight into the integrity of Xavier men’s basketball, a culture of sexual dominance and toxic masculinity left unchecked by teammates, alumni, Xavier coaches and the greater system of students and fans that justify the negligent and violent behavior of Xavier’s male athletes.
This raises the question of accountability.
Where are Xavier men’s basketball players in campus discussions about sexual and domestic violence? How does Chris Mack hold his players accountable behind closed doors, not to ensure that domestic violence doesn’t become public, but to ensure that his players do not abuse their partners? When will Xavier Men’s Basketball fans stop justifying the violence of our athletes?
These questions are not abstract or unfounded. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that one in four women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. And while college athletes generally make up 15 percent of accused rapists, more than 90 percent of victims on college campuses do not report.
Furthermore, the aforementioned statistics are not a segue to victim blaming, but rather a means to illustrate the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and universities’ culture of protection for the perpetrators – especially when they belong to a sports team.
For example, reports found that Baylor University rarely investigated rape and sexual assault allegations against its football team. The Huffington Post found that Florida State administrators intentionally covered up two rape reports against high profile quarterback Jameis Winston. Eight women at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville filed a civil rights law suit claiming that, with regard to student-athletes, the university fostered a culture of physical and sexual violence and did little to protect them as victims.
The numerous examples of athlete impunity to sexual violence leave us all with this imperative: do not accept, in totality, the public image of the Xavier men’s basketball program. Rather, demand a more complete story and question its integrity.
Most importantly, for survivors of intimate partner violence who have been the targets of Xavier basketball players, ignored by Xavier coaches and attacked by the greater body of Xavier basketball fans who religiously disregard their pain, what does justice look like?