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WHERE DO THEY GO TO GET THEIR NAMES BACK?

by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

The Duke players made their statements and the cameras cut away. Too bad. That’s when the real story started.

I’d like the cameras to keep rolling. I’d like them to follow Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans after the crowds disappear, in the months and years ahead.

I’d like to follow them when they apply for a job, and the company interviewing them has a staff meeting and someone in that staff meeting says, “Maybe we should stay away from this guy. After all, that whole rape thing …”

I’d like to follow them on their dates, when they go to the home of the women they love, and the families look at them and pass the potatoes and wonder, deep down, “Is our daughter safe?”

I’d like to follow them through airports, when people recognize them and scowl. I’d like to follow them buying groceries, when someone reads their credit cards and says, “Aren’t you the guy who … ?”

I’d like to follow them when they have children, and those children are in school, and some kid comes up and says, “I heard your daddy got away with it.”

I’d like to follow them when they sit at a computer, and they Google their own names, and up comes 1,000 stories that mention “arrest,””charge,””accusations” and “rape.”

And then I’d like those same cameras to follow the woman who made up these lies – a woman whose name is still not being widely released, as if an obligation remains to somehow protect her – to see how her life is going.

The power of words

I don’t usually get biblical with this column, but there’s a reason slander is considered such a sin in that book – and in many other religions. Because once it’s out there, you cannot take it back. Slander can shadow a life forever.

So I’d like those cameras to film the now-empty streets that once held protest rallies against the Duke players. (One of the signs at those rallies read “Take Back The Night,” a kind of odd sentiment considering the woman they were supporting worked night hours as an exotic dancer.)

I’d like the cameras to film all the knee-jerk pundits and columnists who so craftily referred to that woman as a student and single mother but had no problem referring to Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans as rich, white lacrosse players. In other words, it’s OK to identify one party by skin color and what they do, but not the other.

I’d like the cameras to follow the Duke lacrosse team, and film the abuse its members endured from opposing fans and opposing players. Sure, the team held a party with booze and hired dancers. I’d like to film every person in America to ask them, on camera, if they ever drank when underage, or attended a party with exotic dancers. (Bachelor party, anyone?)

I’d like to ask if that made them rapists.

Evans told the media that Duke’s lacrosse players “have gone to hell and back.”

But they’re not really back.

A never-ending story

So it is astounding that no charges are being filed against this woman – who changed her story so many times, a stenographer would have run out of paper. Why does she not face jail time? She did something awful. She ruined lives. Isn’t that what critics said about the accused Duke students? They did something awful? They ruined lives?

Weren’t the Duke players prosecuted in part to discourage others from evil behavior? What is to discourage the next woman from lying the way this one did? No charges? No penalties? No name released?

Rape is rape. Slander is slander. Both should know no color – black or white. Both should know no class. And both should be punished.

But all I’m hearing is “Oops, our DA was too aggressive. Sorry.” That’s not exactly justice. The cable networks loved this story last year because every day there was a new development. It had “legs.”

So I’d like to see the story covered the same way from this point on. Follow these three young men and report on the moment the shadow of slander is finally gone.

Talk about legs. They’ll be following them the rest of their lives.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.

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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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