A few weeks ago the nation watched as Alabama crushed Notre Dame to win the NCAA National Championship. The story that night was about football. Since the bludgeoning win, headlines have shifted from football to a personal story about Notre Dame’s best player – Manti Te’o.
Te’o-gate became reality last week with news of his online girlfriend being fake. This story became newsworthy because Te’o became popular because his girlfriend reportedly died of cancer just after Te’o’s grandmother passed away. His story became one of strength and character as he continued to play ferociously while his team climbed to the number one ranking.
Te’o’s story misled the media, Notre Dame, and the nation. But, there is more to the story of Notre Dame and what is at work in the institution.
Te’o’s story – however unsavory – should not be receiving the attention that it is. Instead, a more disturbing story out of Notre Dame should receive attention. Players from this team were accused of rape and sexual assault in 2010. One of the victims, Lizzy Seeberg, first accused a Notre Dame football player of sexually assaulting her. Instead of investigating the matter, Notre Dame ignored Seeberg’s report. Ten days later Seeberg committed suicide. Police finally questioned the accused player, where he said he knew nothing of the matter nor why he was being questioned. Before Seeberg committed suicide, a friend of the accused told Seeberg “not to mess with Notre Dame football.”
Two months later a resident assistant responded to a call from a freshman student reporting she had been raped by a Notre Dame football player. She never filed a criminal complaint because other football players warned her to not report what had happened.
Through these events, Notre Dame officials smeared Seeberg claiming she lied and had no proof. In essence, they continued to blame the victim who could not defend herself because she was dead.
So, when Te’o’s story came out, it went national. Notre Dame claimed that its favorite son was the victim of a horrific hoax. The school and its officials jumped to save face not only for the school, but for the football player.
The facts are not completely known. Some believe the story as it has been told – Te’o was a victim. Others believe that Te’o was a part of the hoax, clamoring for attention. The sick part of the two stories out of Notre Dame, though, is how the school has handled the latter compared to the former.
The school has gone to great lengths to keep its pristine reputation in tact. This includes claiming that its star had no idea of the girlfriend hoax and dismissing claims of sexual assault and rape.
Should the claims of rape and sexual assault be true, Notre Dame, then, is creating a culture proving to its students that as long as its football program continues to be a financial and national powerhouse, certain criminal acts will be tolerated.
Situations like this are not fixed on Notre Dame. Rather, our universities — especially those with large revenue sports — allow crimes and atrocities to go on.
Penn State covered up the Jerry Sandusky scandal for years in order to preserve its reputation. They fell from grace in the worst possible way. The culture that football or sport reins supreme must end. People’s lives are being destroyed by this culture of greed, power, and cowardice.