Kel Kelly

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Orange Blood: Syracuse’s Shame

November 29, 2011 7:04 PM

Let me start by saying we bleed Orange in our family. My daughter will graduate from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School this spring. My wife graduated from Syracuse. Her parents met, married and had their first child at Syracuse. That child went on to graduate from Syracuse too. We love everything about the school.

When the story broke on November 18th that there were allegations Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine had molested two boys from the late 1970s to 1990s, my heart sank. The reaction was not in response to Syracuse being in the middle of a scandal. It was in response to two boys being subjected to unimaginable, life-altering abuse.

It appeared the University acted swiftly by placing Fine on administrative leave while the charges were investigated. I can’t speak to how they responded when the allegations surfaced back in 2005, but in observing this recent scandal it appeared Chancellor Nancy Cantor was going to do the right thing. That was until Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim opened his ignorant trap and Chancellor Cantor chose to look the other way. Not only did Boeheim support Fine, but also verbally attacked the accusers. The ignorance was an endless spewing of vile commentary:

“I have known Bernie Fine for more than 40 years…. Bernie has my full support.”

This is so laughable. Any childmolestor over the age of forty has been known by someone for over forty years. That doesn’t make them a non-childmolester.

“It is a bunch of a thousand lies that he (Bobby Davis) has told. You don’t think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward?”

Hmmmm….no I don’t think it’s funny that more than one person in his family was abused. Can you repeat the joke Jim, I think I missed it.

“The Penn State thing came out, and the kid behind this is trying to get money. He’s tried before. And now he’s trying again. If he gets this, he’s going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I’d say about $50 million. That’s what this is about. Money.”

Congratulations Bonehead….’er…I mean Boeheim, your reaction is the exact reason why kids being sexually abused don’t tell anyone — they fear nobody will believe them. Chancellor Nancy Cantor should have fired Boeheim on the spot. Instead, she did nothing and in doing so let all kids being sexually abused know that yet another adult would not step in to protect them. Way to go Nance. You now have orange blood on your hands and have spattered it all over the University and those who love it.

Fast forward to the morning of November 27th when ESPN broke a story that included secret recordings of Fine’s wife speaking to knowing about the abuse and saying Bernie “has issues.” All of a sudden, Boeheim has a mouthful of crow and in trying to choke it down releases a very well scripted, cover-his-ass statement:

“The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling. I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged. I believe the university took the appropriate step tonight. What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found. I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse.”

In football they call that a Hail Mary. Not sure what the term is in basketball, but one thing is for sure, it seemed to make Chancellor Cantor happy. Today she stated:

“Coach Boeheim is our coach; he’s getting the team ready tonight. We’re very pleased with what he said Sunday night, and we stand by him.”

She must have consulted the Vatican on how to handle this mess. Why else would she choose to stand by a guy who verbally attacked a boy — yes he was a boy when this happened — who was sexually abused for years by a sick pedophile. There is no other way to slice it — in supporting Boeheim, Chancellor Cantor is saying “we value our coach more than we value the sexual abuse victims.” And because Chancellor Cantor represents Syracuse University, it is Syracuse University saying “we value our coach more than we value the sexual abuse victims.” Shame on Chancellor Cantor and the Syracuse Board for allowing Jim Boeheim to keep his job. All three should be terminated before Syracuse’s reputation mirrors that of Penn State.

What do you think?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 30 Comments »

30 Comments on “Orange Blood: Syracuse’s Shame”

  1. Deb Dobson Says:

    Kel, this is an excellent post. I agree with everything you say here. Why is it we seem to pay more attention to the sports program or church institution’s reputation than the child who got harmed for life by some predator. The institution shouldn’t trump a crime or make us forget about who the victim is…the victim.

  2. Kel Says:

    couldn’t agree with you more deb! i think sometimes the institution can’t see beyond the impact on them. it is kinda like when children think “what about me?” it’s shameful and hurtful. simply heartbreaking. thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. AT Says:

    Excellent post. One quick thing I thought I should mention – it’s Nancy Cantor, not Smith.

  4. Kel Says:

    AT, thanks so much for pointing that out. Not sure how I referenced her as “Smith” in the beginning on the story and “Cantor” at the end. Oy. I have corrected it. I appreciate the feedback!

  5. Alison Says:

    The big difference between Penn State and Syracuse and their handling of their head coaches is that Joe Paterno was told about the alleged child rape and Jim Boeheim never knew about it (as far as we know). Paterno (and others) were complicit and therefore had to leave. It appears Boeheim was not involved and didn’t know about Bernie Fine’s alleged behavior.

  6. Michael Torosian Says:

    I think the term “half court buzzer beater” is the “hail Mary” equivalent.

    With that, all I have is “WOW”. Dead on observation and a great reference to the Vatican. With all my years in youth sports, it sickens me to hear what sickos do to take advantage of innocence.

  7. Kel Says:

    alison, thanks for taking the time to comment. let me clarify — my point has nothing to do with whether boeheim knew. i actually don’t think he knew anything. my issue is that he attacked the accuser and threw his support behind fine before letting the investigation take its course. in doing that he fulfilled every child sexual abuse victims number one fear which is that nobody will believe them. his comments are appalling. i love syracuse and they deserve better when it comes to iconic representations of all the university stands for.

  8. Shelley Says:

    I think I remember something from “crisis PR 101″ about obtaining all the facts before speaking? Boeheim looks like a prize idiot. Other than the abuse, which is by far the most tragic piece of this, Cantor’s overlooking it to support her own is almost equally as sickening. What a mess.

  9. Kel Says:

    mike, i should have known that term! thanks for reminding me. you are the bipolar antithesis of bernie fine. the support and encouragement you have given student athletes is nothing short of remarkable. hearts.

  10. Meagan Shaffer Says:

    Kel, I agree with your post 100%. It is deplorable that as the ambassador of the team that he made the statements that he made. A public apology doesn’t undo the damage that he caused, not just to the victims in this case but, to your point, to the countless victims in the world who feel they can’t speak up.

  11. Kel Says:

    shelley, i couldn’t agree more. “sickening” is a great word and it amplifies exactly how i feel. i love ‘cuse. i will always love ‘cuse. cantor and boeheim have tarnished its reputation in the same way the vatican tarnished the reputation of the catholic church. the syracuse students, alum, administrators, parents, etc. deserve better. go orange!

  12. Kel Says:

    meagan, his apology sounded like one of the biggest “cover your ass” statements ever. it was delivered via a printed statement. he should have got up live behind a microphone and communicated a sincere mea culpa.

  13. Alison Says:

    Yes, as a parent, sports fan and someone who also bleeds Orange I agree Boeheim’s attack of the accuser is reprehensible.

    As a PR professional it’s hard not to address so many other issues that arise in this situation: one is the case where a sports figure (usually a player) is asked to be a role model. Boeheim has an incredible pulpit so his actions are louder than others who actually out-rank him. There’s also the perception vs reality issue. When the news started trickling out about this (ESPN leaked it in a controversial interview) there were other people (notably the Syracuse DA) taking Fine’s side, however briefly.

  14. Alison Says:

    I would like to see Boeheim make that statement too – he certainly has lots of opportunities to do so.

  15. Kel Says:

    hey alison, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. diversity in opinion is what makes this world great. hope to see you comment again soon.

  16. Grace Carr Says:

    As a sports junkie, I fear that those of us who follow our teams all unknowingly contribute to the problems associated with abuse (of whatever kind) by athletes. LT didn’t rape that girl (she was almost of age); Tiger loved his family (he just loved playing around more); Paterno told the school (he just didn’t do anything more); Boeheim supported his friend (he didn’t mean to indite the victims). As a mother of two and grandmother of five it frightens the hell out of me to think how quickly society forgives the unforgivable when our sports idols commit the offense. Hopefully we have finally gotten the wake-up call that we so badly needed.

  17. Lucy Says:

    Man its a terrible awful disgusting situation at SU.

    Boeheim, was completely out of line, insensitive and idiotic for opening his mouth on the issue.

    However, there are some added pieces, that while they dont justify what he did and said, help at leaste to explain it. Yes he knew this guy for 40 years. And while i agree its irrelevant, it does add to ones willingness to defend the guy.

    Further supporting this “I’ve known this guy for 40 years” way of thinking was the fact that the police had investigated the issue prior and found nothing. Also, some of the accusers statements about people who could verify his accusations, also turned out to be false. There were other extenuating circumstances – like the fact that the accuser had previously asked for money, was well into his 20s when some of the allegations continued to occur….that again, while not making Boeheim justified in what he did, at least help to explain why he might of actually believed his “40 years” way of thinking.

    In the end Boeheim, was wrong in coming out and saying anything till all the facts were out. Clearly. However, I am not sure after 37 years of service he deserves to be fired. He messed up. But he didnt molest anyone, or unlike paterno, (as far as we know now) knowingly allow it to happen.

    He defended an old friend who he incorrectly thought was innocent. A stupid thing to do, but not one that he deserves to be fired for.

  18. Lucy Says:

    Also comparing the Syracuse situation, and the chancellors defense of Boeheim to the Vatican, is just way off.

    The Vatican did way more than support its pedophiling priests. They protected them, covered it all up, and shuffled them around where they were able to damage more kids.

    How is the chancellors support of Boeheim, who is not accused of abusing anyone, like the Vatican?

    Seems like a huge stretch.

    The Chancellor is supporting someone who has given 37 years to the university, and whose biggest mistake was defending a friend, when he should of kept his mouth shut.

    The Vatican supported and COVERED up for pedophilers, the Chancellor supported a guy who supported a pedophiler. Huge huge huge difference.

  19. Kel Says:

    grace, you netted out the situation perfectly. your analogies were brilliant. thanks for sharing your perspective.

  20. Kel Says:

    lucy, thanks for taking the time to share your perspective. as i said previously, diversity is what makes this world great. i respect your points. my comparison to the vatican was not relative to the two offenses being similar. my point was regarding chancellor cantor’s managing of the situation. cantor has turned a blind eye when it comes to boeheim — someone who didn’t commit an offense, but made offensive statements regarding the offense. the vatican did the same thing when the catholic sexual abuse stories first broke — i know first hand because the story broke here in boston. they called the victims liars. they denied. they defended the pedophiles. that is exactly what boeheim did and chancellor cantor threw her support behind him. i find that appalling. if boeheim had come forward, spoken honestly, taken accountability, expressed remorse and perhaps even reached out to the victims, then i would say he shouldn’t be fired. but he didn’t. he verbally attacked the victims and called them liars. his apology looked and sounded obligatory and insincere. given that, i believe chancellor cantor’s support of boeheim is ridiculous. just one girl sharing her perspective….

  21. Dex Says:

    At the end of the day – I think in the SU case we need to reserve final judgement until we know all the facts. ESPN runs with rumors and half the facts, and the next thing you know people want to ‘string Jim up!’ Jim B is a basketball coach – not a pedophile therapist schooled in the art of how victims should be treated. All he is guilty of so far is insensitivity in (initially) vigorously defending a close friend (or so he thought) he’s known for 40 years – against charges that had already been levied and dismissed by police. In my view – ANY negative things that are thrown the victims way is Bernie Fine’s responsibility. Not only did he allegedly abuse boys – but he abused and lied to his friends and co-workers for years…and in this case made a fool out of one (Jim B) for defending him. Jim B should not be fired for being another victim – although not in the same league as the boys – of Bernie Fine. If the investigation turns up that Jim B lied about something, or was told ‘Joe Paterno’ style of abuse and did nothing – all new ballgame. The Chancellor acted appropriately I think – the real criminal got fired, and the insensitive jerk apologized and ate crow…but if everyone who was an insensitive jerk got fired for running their mouth – we’d lose most of Congress, Wall Street, and Simon Cowel….hmmmm

  22. Jen Says:

    As a Newshouse grad, I love my alma mater but did anyone else think that Boeheim’s denial that the never “witnessed” the behavior was odd. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t aware of it. It’s a sad day for Syracuse.

  23. Kel Says:

    dex, let’s look at this a different way as frightening as it is to imagine. let’s assume your son was sexually abused by a hockey coach for many years. let’s assume as an adult he finally musters up the courage to tell someone. let’s assume the first time he tells the police and others nobody believes him. let’s assume years later he decides to tell people again. at that point, the other coach on your son’s team holds a media conference and accuses your son of being a liar and solely motivated by money. do you stand back and say, no problem, i think the coach is right. my son is a liar. my son is in search of money. i don’t think you do. i think you muster up every fiber in your being to refrain from ripping the guys head off his neck. maybe i’m projecting here — that is certainly what i would do. my point is that jim boeheim never in a gajillion years had the right to publicly slander and verbally assault someone who was the victim of a sexual assault when he was a child. in my humble opinion, as an iconic representative of a university, that is a terminable offense. i am not suggesting we fire every “insensitive jerk who runs off at the mouth.” i am however suggesting any company fire any employee who runs off at the mouth and attacks a victim of child sexual abuse. again, nothing but love for you, but i think we should agree to disagree.

  24. Kel Says:

    jen, it is a sad day for syracuse. and for the victims. i share your sadness.

  25. David Blake Says:

    Perfectly said.

    You learn a lot about someone by how they react to this. Normal people should be horrified by an adult having sex with a child, but people give huge leniency to coaches and show their true allegiance.

    If you don’t want Boeheim fired, you show that Syracuse or basketball is more important than the crime of intimidating victims of child sex abuse. The problem is that those people won’t be honest enough to say that.

  26. David Blake Says:

    Kel #23 says it brilliantly. People who disagree value basketball over protecting victims of child sex abuse, and should never be in charge of children.

  27. Kel Says:

    david, it is very interesting to me that some people can’t connect the dots that cantor supporting boeheim is — as you stated — the same as supporting “the crime of intimidating victims of child sex abuse.” let’s not overlook the fact that cantor never once commented on how inappropriate and appalling boeheim’s comments were. never once. if that’s not turning a blind eye then i don’t know what is.

  28. chino hills personal trainer Says:

    Yes, as a parent, sports fan and someone
    who also bleeds Orange I agree Boeheim’s
    attack of the accuser is reprehensible.

  29. Kel Says:

    chino hills personal trainer, sorry for your pain. it’s impacted so many. so sad.

  30. Kel Says:

    and the plot thickens — victims hire hotshot lawyer gloria allred and plan to sue syracuse university and boeheim. syracuse allowing boeheim to call the victims liars puts them in a very awkward and potentially liable position. if they fire him now, they are basically admitting they should have done something previously. if they let him continue coaching, they are going to have to explain why they thought it was ok for him to call the victims liars and why they did not publicly distance the university from him.

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