There’s no easy way to deal with rape charges. Once they’ve beenaired, the accused are usually pilloried, and truth takes abackseat to seamy details. Think of the Kobe Bryant case, where theNBA posterboy became a shamed exile overnight when word of the rapeallegation leaked.
No one in the Colorado football program has been charged yet,but the current running total of six rape accusations since 1999 –on top of the Boulder County district attorney’s allegations thatColorado lured recruits in with sex and booze — has punditsnationwide calling for the football program to be given the deathpenalty. No wonder, then, that Colorado football head coach GaryBarnett might be frustrated and a little at loss at how torespond.
But there is no excuse for the comments Barnett made lastTuesday in regards to Colorado former place-kicker Katie Hnida whoclaims to have been raped by a teammate in 2000.
He responded to a reporter’s question about Hnida’s abilities bysaying, “She was awful … Katie was not only a girl, she wasterrible. OK? There’s no other way to say it.”
The next day Barnett apologized and admitted that he “must havecome across as insensitive.” So he gets points for hindsight. Andto be fair, he wasn’t trying to discredit the truthfulness ofHnida’s accusations with his insults. But his hostile words onlyunderscore what Colorado’s accusers have been saying all along:that the program has a culture of viewing women as sex objects –or worse.
Think of Barnett’s “she’s just a girl” remarks in the context ofanother woman accusing Barnett of saying he “would back his player100 percent” if she tried to file rape charges.
A man who sees being female as a mark of shame when it comes tofootball may not have a much better view of women when it comes torape controversy.
The sad part is that Barnett and his players could be absoluteangels, but with a few idiotic comments, he has given his opponentsunlimited ammunition to shoot down the program. This is whyColorado was right in suspending him.
Some of Barnett’s backers may say it’s unfair for Barnett to bepunished for having a big, untrained mouth.
But the alternative — leaving him in his place — is a no-winsituation. If the rape allegations prove to be true, then theprogram will be killed.
If they are shown to be false, the fact the Coloradoadministration turned a blind eye to the severity of Barnett’scomments will be little assurance to the accusers that justice wasactually pursued.