Madeline Sperling, Staff Writer
Urban Meyer Apology
Urban Meyer Suspension
On Wednesday, the Ohio State Board of Trustees came to a final decision on Urban Meyer's fate in the wake of a domestic abuse scandal involving his WR coach Zach Smith. I recently wrote about how Meyer's Twitter apology spoke to a greater issue in how NCAA institutions handle domestic violence, but I think Diana Moskovitz of Deadspin hit the nail on the head with this one:
"This is what any discussion of violence against women in the sports world looks like; it turns women into just another pawn, a thing to be debated in sports terminology of missed games, impacted statistics, upcoming schedules, and how it will affect a man’s career. Any concern for the safety of Courtney Smith and her family will discarded without a second thought."
Every time an accusation or lawsuit involving domestic violence or sexual assault against a woman arises in the world of sports, the crime itself becomes lost in a wave of reports and broadcasts solely focused on the perpetrator's career and how this will affect their franchise or program's success. This narrative set up by administrators who address their apologies to their fans and reinforced by sports broadcasters sets a precedent that getting caught is the real crime.
Both Urban Meyer and the OSU administration have repeatedly stressed the importance of setting an example for the young student-athletes in their program. However, this narrative that emphasizes a coach or athlete's career over everything else teaches these young student-athletes that the worst thing you can do is get caught.
Urban Meyer's insincere apology
In my previous article on the Urban Meyer scandal, I spoke briefly about the art of the public apology. Watching Meyer's formal apology reminded me a bit of that South Park episode where they made fun of BP CEO Tony Hayward's phony and insincere apology for their Gulf Coast Oil Spill. I realize there are legal ramifications of apologizing to Courtney Smith directly, but Meyer failed to even recognize her a victim and even went so far as to implicate himself as a victim. It's sad when the world is looking to you to say something sincere and from the heart, but all you can do is ambivalently read off a pre-written statement and deny culpability for your actions. The truth of the matter is that for years Courtney Smith and her children suffered greatly from abuse, harassment, and violent threats by a man who remained in a power position. Not only did Meyer fail to acknowledge Courtney Smith as a victim of domestic violence, but he redirected the question to insinuate that the upheaval and consequences suffered by him and the OSU administration was the real abuse. Watching Meyer going on about how deeply sorry he is to Buckeye Nation for putting them through this ordeal, it is clear this man doesn't believe he did anything wrong. He's just sorry everyone found out.
In their lenient decision, OSU make the distinction that it was not a 'cover-up'
In the Board of Trustees' public statement on Wednesday, the OSU administrators defended their decision to not fire Meyer because neither he nor AD Gene Smith participated in a cover-up. The university's official report read: “Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes..."
So what constitutes a "cover-up"? At what point does allowing a man habitually accused of abuse and harrassment to be a prominent member of a program responsible for mentoring young athletes covering up a potential scandal for the university?
It's overtly clear now that Ohio State values winning above all, and Urban Meyer is sorry he got caught. According to court documents, several police officers in two different states, two respected reporters, including one interview on camera, and now to Ohio State investigators, Zach Smith physically and emotionally abused his ex wife all while being comfortably employed by a top 5 FBS college football program. All this became public knowledge because she went to court to get a restraining order; in her request, Courtney Smith wrote that Zach Smith stalked her, threatened her, and hacked her email. All this woman wanted was to feel safe and raise her children in a safe environment, but neither Ohio law enforcement nor the OSU administration would help her. She did everything that people in abusive relationships are told to do, but she continued to be threatened, stalked and harassed by her abuser who remained a powerful figure at OSU and a mentor to young student-athletes.
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