Selena's Sickening Standards: Slime Innocent Duke Players, Weep for Guilty Vick

As columnist Selena Roberts moves to Sports Illustrated, her shoddy treatment of the Duke lacrosse players shouldn't be forgotten.

Selena's Sickening Standards: Slime Innocent Duke Players, Weep for Guilty Vick

As columnist Selena Roberts reportedly leaves the Times to write for Sports Illustrated, her execrable treatment of the Duke lacrosse team should not be forgotten. Three players were falsely accused of raping a stripper, a hoax Roberts not only fully embraced but used to tar the entire athletic department as a racist, woman-hating bastion of white privilege.

Her most notorious column, "Closing a Case Will Not Mean Closure at Duke," came on March 25, 2007, long after the case had been shown to be faulty and just a few weeks before all charges were dropped. Nonetheless Roberts didn't let go, claiming that the actual innocence or guilt was beside the point and that what mattered was the "culture of misogyny" and racism thankfully exposed.

"What happens if all the charges are dismissed? There is a tendency to conflate the alleged crime at the Duke lacrosse team kegger on March 13, 2006, with the irrefutable culture of misogyny, racial animus and athlete entitlement that went unrestrained that night....To many, the alleged crime and culture are intertwined. No trial, all vindication. This microview has some passionate, respectful followers, but also a few loquacious bullies."


"Don't mess with Duke, though. To shine a light on its integrity has been treated by the irrational mighty as a threat to white privilege.

"Feel free to excoriate the African-American basketball stars and football behemoths for the misdeeds of all athletes, but lay off the lacrosse pipeline to Wall Street, excuse the khaki-pants crowd of SAT wonder kids.

"No one would want an innocent Duke player wronged or ruined by false charges - and that may have occurred on Nifong's watch - but the alleged crime and the culture are mutually exclusive.

"Some readers argue no one would have known about the lacrosse team's misogyny bash last year if not for the initial rape charges by the hired dancer. True, but that's how we often discover what goes on behind the curtains: by a botched break-in, through a door left ajar."

Roberts concluded the whole sorry episode was worth it as long as the Duke culture of privilege among was taken down a peg.

"This won't end the race and class divides that existed within the radius of Duke long before a lacrosse party. But if you take on the athlete culture that was exposed, not the alleged crime, there can be one healthy legacy to a scandal.

"A dismissal doesn't mean forget everything. Amnesia would be a poor defense to the next act of athlete privilege."

Roberts' bizarre double standard toward "snitching" revealed itself in two columns, 18 months apart. According to Roberts' rules, "Snitching" (her phrase) is bad if it involves true allegations against millionaire professionalfootball player Michael Vick, but it's good to "come forward" with accusations against white, privileged college lacrosse players. Of course in the Duke case there was absolutely nothing to "snitch" about - the players were utterly innocent.

The headline to her March 31, 2006 column lamenting the lack of snitching in the Duke case suggested that supporters of the Duke players were moral cowards - "When Peer Pressure, Not a Conscience, Is Your Guide."

"On the front page of Wednesday's USA Today, there was a photo of a man wearing a T-shirt with a traffic sign and a message for rat finks written in graffiti type: 'Stop Snitching.'

"As the story detailed, this is the bold new wardrobe of drug dealers and gang members engaged in an anti-snitch campaign that is frustrating authorities.

"Imagine a T-shirt as a tool of witness intimidation. Now imagine it as the undershirt of the male athlete in a locker-room culture devoted to its own code of silence, of a male athlete who thrives inside hostile arenas where the Vegas rule of 'what goes on here, stays here' creates the tacit acceptance of denigrating behavior.


"At the intersection of entitlement and enablement, there is Duke University, virtuous on the outside, debauched on the inside. This is the home of Coach K's white-glove morality and the Cameron Crazies' celebrated vulgarity.

"The season is over, but the paradox lives on in Duke's lacrosse team, a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings.

"Something happened March 13, when a woman, hired to dance at a private party, alleged that three lacrosse players sexually assaulted her in a bathroom for 30 minutes.

"According to reported court documents, she was raped, robbed, strangled and was the victim of a hate crime. She was also reportedly treated at a hospital for vaginal and anal injuries consistent with sexual assault and rape.

"Players have been forced to give up their DNA, but to the dismay of investigators, none have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account.

"Maybe the team captains are right. Maybe the allegations are baseless.

"But why is it so hard to gather the facts? Why is any whisper of a detail akin to snitching?"

Compare that to her August 19, 2007 column, "Vick Is Trapped in His Circle of Friends," paying attention to the bizarre word choice, which absolve Vick of any blame, instead fingering his friends for "failing" him by implicating Vick as operator of a dogfighting ring. Vick reported to prison a few days before Thanksgiving - unlike the Duke players, his case went to trial and he was found guilty.

"The crooked circle Michael Vick drew around himself has tripped and squeezed him.

"The first to fail Vick was Davon Boddie, a cousin and personal chef. His marijuana possession charge in April led police to a white house with black buildings behind it on Moonlight Road in Surry County, Va.

"The first to flip on Vick was Tony Taylor, a fast friend from Newport News, Va., with an arrest record for drug trafficking and a traffic record for reckless driving. He pleaded guilty last month in the macabre dogfighting case that has consumed the N.F.L.

"The latest to betray Vick is Quanis L. Phillips, a friend since middle school. Along with Purnell A. Peace, Phillips, who once served jail time on a drug charge, accepted a plea deal Friday and implicated Vick as the owner and operator of a dogfighting ring. Vick was Phillips's sole breadwinner. 'At certain times,' a court summary of facts stated, 'Phillips used a large portion of his money for living expenses.'"


"Group dynamics can collapse under pressure. Vick has been abandoned, left to contemplate a plea deal that could imprison him and ruin his N.F.L. career. He is stunned, those in his camp say. Snitching is a street sin, isn't it?"

Hold on! Isn't reporting criminal behavior to be encouraged? Or does that only apply when the alleged "criminals" play lacrosse for the "debauched" Duke Blue Devils and can be used as pawns in a political attack against "white privilege"?

If this is a fair example of Roberts' insight, Sports Illustrated may be getting less than it bargained for.