I just watched a 60 Minutes piece on the former Duke lacrosse head coach, Mike Pressler, who resigned 9 years ago during rape allegations against 3 of his players.
He was a scapegoat at the time and he is put in a very different light today in this 60 Minutes piece than what was being said 9 years ago.
The case itself is frustrating because 3 players were accused of rape and much of the media and many activists had already convicted the three young men before most of the facts were out, let alone their actual day in court.
This is why we don’t live in a democracy and should never want to live in a democracy. If mob rule had had its way back then, then the three young men would have never stood a chance.
It is a relief in one sense that most of the truth eventually came out and the three accused people were acquitted by the truth. But we can’t take for granted how horrible of an episode this must have been (and still is) for them and their friends and family.
It is also frustrating in that the criminal accuser and the prosecutor, Michael Nifong, were not held more accountable for their crimes. If you are purposely lying in an attempt to imprison people, then doesn’t it seem just that the liars should themselves be imprisoned?
Nifong was disbarred, but should have been sent to prison, or at least paid major restitution to the three young men, who turned out to be the actual victims.
Crystal Mangum, the woman who accused them of raping her, did not serve prison time. Instead, she got a book deal. She ended up in prison in 2013 when she was found guilty of killing her boyfriend.
But the 60 Minutes story focused on Mike Pressler, who resigned as head coach after the allegations were made and during major protests. He says that he was given an ultimatum of resigning or being fired. If I had been in his position, I would have told them to fire me.
I thought it was foolish at the time. Nearly everyone was rushing to judgment and I thought at the time that the allegations might not be true. When you see an unruly mob of people in the streets, this is often a sign that they have their story backwards. Mobs of people and intelligence don’t often go together, but there are exceptions.
But even if the allegations were true, I thought it was ridiculous that the head coach be fired or that he resign. Why is he responsible? What about the professors of the classes that the guys were in? What about the athletic director and the Duke president? What about campus security? Why was it just the head coach that was originally made a scapegoat?
In the interview, Pressler said that he believed his accused players at the time and thought they were innocent. The 60 Minutes story talked about how loyal of a guy Pressler is. But if that is the case, then why didn’t he stick up for his players in public at the time? Why did he go into hiding? He didn’t have to worry about keeping quiet for an official trial.
He could have stood in front of cameras and said that we shouldn’t rush to judgment. He also could have defended himself and said that he is not ultimately the one responsible for their actions.
Would it have been a hard thing to do? It probably would have. But for me, I would think it would be harder to stay silent and let your reputation go downhill. I would think it would be hard to let your players be crucified without a fair trial up to that point.
Pressler was another victim in all of this, but he also lost his opportunity to stand up for principle and what was right at the time because he was afraid of standing up to the mobs in the street. He was afraid of the media. I don’t really know this for sure, but that is my guess.
Sometimes you face situations in life that are difficult and almost seem unfair because you didn’t bring them on and didn’t ask for them. This is what happened to Joe Paterno at Penn State and he ended up with a tainted reputation at the end of his life, and rightly so.
I am not putting Pressler on the same level as Paterno, but they are both cases of where you just have to sometimes stand up and do the right thing, even if it goes against the grain and even if it is a hard thing to do in the short run.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this story.