Shortly after The Chronicle published President Brodhead’s eloquent memorial tribute to the esteemed historian and Duke Professor John Hope Franklin, I received the following email from a parent of a member of Duke’s 2006 Men’s lacrosse team. It’s published with the parent’s consent:
Attached is Brodhead's column paying tribute to the late John Hope Franklin. Brodhead specifically mentions Mr. Franklin speaking at Duke's 2006 commencement.Just as the lacrosse players and their families had anticipated, David Evens was indicted the following day, May 15.
Brodhead does not identify the lacrosse incident by name but rather refers to the Spring of 2006 when " the city and campus were gripped with controversy with a racial dimension. " He also praises, justifiably, Mr. Franklin's commencement address by saying that he did not play to " divisive passions. "
My son and a number of his teammates graduated in 2006 and attended the commencement. My wife and I also attended and sat with the other lacrosse parents/families.
Graduation was a terrible time for us. Collin and Reade had been indicted and we all knew that Dave Evans, a graduating senior, would be indicted the day after graduation. When all the other graduates were enjoying celebratory graduation parties, our gathering the night before felt more like a wake as Collin, Reade and Dave were facing the prospect of 30 years in prison for crimes that never occurred -- and Nifong had threatened the other players with similar sentences for aiding and abetting.
We did not know what to expect at the commencement. We feared that there would be protests against the players and/or that the commencement speakers might single out our sons in a bad way. There were no protests and Mr. Franklin , to his credit, showed good judgment and compassion by not mentioning the lacrosse incident in his remarks.
When the commencement was over we felt relief , not joy like the other graduates and their families. We were also concerned that Duke might withhold our sons' diplomas and did not feel comfortable until we saw the diplomas in our sons' hands.
But now to Brodhead who, unlike Mr. Franklin, used his very influential position to evoke the passions of racism and dangerously prejudice the case against the lacrosse players.
Below are some excerpts from Brodhead's April 5, 2006 letter to the Duke Community which was issued concurrently with his firing the coach and canceling the season.
At the beginning of the letter Brodhead says " Rape is the substitution of raw power for love, brutality for tenderness and dehumanization for intimacy. It is also the crudest assertion of inequality, a way to show that the strong are superior to the weak and can rightfully use them as objects of their pleasure. When reports of racial abuse are added to the mix, the evil is compounded, reviving memories of the systematic racial suppression we had hoped to have left behind us."
He goes on with this type of passionate and inflammatory language for four more paragraphs. He later states :" ... there have been reports of persistent problems with the men's lacrosse team including racist language..."
That statement is unsubstantiated and irresponsibly false. There is no historical evidence that the lacrosse players had persistently, or ever, used racist language. In fact the Coleman Report stated that:
" By all accounts the lacrosse players are a cohesive, hard working, disciplined and respectful athletic team .... Their reported conduct has not involved fighting, sexual assault or harassment, or racist behavior."
Except for possibly Nifong, I believe Brodhead did more to fan the flames of racism in the lacrosse incident than anyone, particularly when one considers his very influential position at Duke.
On what had to be one of the hardest days of his life, Evans delivered a stirring statement in which he told the public:” I am absolutely innocent of all charges brought against me. You have all been told some fantastic lies. I look forward to seeing them unravel."
Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann would remain under indictment until April 11, 2007 when NC Attorney General Roy Cooper declared Nifong a “rogue” prosecutor and the players “innocent.”
During the almost one year Evans remained under indictment his grandfather and namesake passed away.
Three days after Evans’ indictment Reade Seligmann was targeted by a racist hate group that shouted threats, including death threats, at him outside and within the Durham County Courthouse.
Brodhead said nothing critical of the racists or supportive of Seligmann and his family.
In October 2006 on CBS’s 60 Minutes Brodhead pouted to the late Ed Bradley that the Duke lacrosse case had been very difficult for him.
It was a confusing time, he told Bradley, because “the facts kept changing.”
Brodhead is still Duke’s President.