Mike Rice, Tim Pernetti & Rutgers' Basketball: Abuse as Normalized

Mike Rice, the head basketball coach at Rutgers University, in New Jersey, used  his power and position to physically, emotionally, and verbally abuse his college basketball players.  The video tape of a practice, shown on ESPN’s Outside the Lines two days ago, has gone viral.  Take a look at both video and the story which accompanies it by investigative reporter Don Van Natta, Jr:      http://tinyurl.com/c4stoqs

What emerged are significant details of Rice’s on-going abhorrent anger, directed viciously at his players during a practice. He hurls basketballs at their bodies and heads, kicks them, and screams ephitats, which can legally be defined as “hate language.” All of this behavior is subject to legal prosecution.

In my profession, we call this “existing in an environment of pervasive emotional and physical abuse,” possibly leaving some of these players with post-traumatic stress disorder: PTSD.  Is there any wonder that five players have transferred out of Rutgers’ basketball to play at another institution in the last year?

I can only imagine the conversations between these young men, (some still teens), and their parents, after viewing and reading about their experiences.  Parents seeing their sons on a college team assume their coach and the university will continue to develop good character, maturity, and instill a hard-working ethic.  I know I did, when mine was on his university men’s tennis team.

We need to thank Eric Murdoch, a professional NBA player for 9 years.   He was Head of Player Development for Rutgers’ basketball, and was the person to inform Rice’s shameful abuse of power and position last summer, to Tim Pernetti, Rutgers’ Athletic Director (A.D.).  After no action was taken, he showed Pernetti the video in November.

So without Murdoch’s due diligence, we may never have known of Rice’s actions,  along with his hideous racist and homophobic slurs, particularly directed to Malick Kone from Guinea and Gilvydas Biruta from Lithuania.

Pernetti’s response?  A mere 3 game  suspension for Rice, a fine of $50,000, and an order to attend an anger management program.  No evidence of attendance for anger management is documented.

Today, faculty and students continue to call for both Rutgers’ Pernetti and university President Dr. Robert Barchi dismissals by the Board of Directors, for not going “far enough” in full disclosure and a more thorough investigation when this issue came to light.  It is still unclear exactly when Dr. Barchi knew of Rice’s behavior.  Thus, the New York Times (4/4/13) notes that a further investigation is warranted as to who “knew what, and when.”

So once again, another team from outside our hallowed Big Ten University system, is allowed to grace our college stadiums.  Did you know Rutgers will now be part of our “Big Ten Conference,” just as Penn State was allowed to do in 1993?

Oh yeah, THAT Penn State, the one where Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky lived.  Sandusky, accused of on-going horrific sexual abuse in the mens’ showers on university grounds.  And football Head Coach Paterno, who knew of the abuse but did nothing, along with 9 others in positions of power and authority.

Yes – the pervasive sexual abuse by a pedophile of young children was known to many others, especially those in law enforcement and probation, besides a university president and athletic director. And they did nothing.   Read about this in my November, 2011 blogs:

part  I http://tinyurl.com/bpbdogj

Part II http://tinyurl.com/72j8bc5

Part III http://tinyurl.com/7h6pck9

 So today we have a Rutgers head coach, another NCAA university, subjecting its students to behavior which diminishes a persons’ self-esteem, sense of self and normal human development.

Whose judgment can we protest, again?  As we go up the ladder, we start with Mike Rice, the Coach. Then Tim Pernetti, the A.D. Then  Robert Barchi,  Rutgers’ President. What about their Board of Trustees’ Chair, Ralph Izzo? Time for another Louis Freeh investigation, right?

And then there is the N.C.A.A., the National Collegiate Athletic Association, who regulates the billion-dollar industry of university athletics with million dollar- paid coaches and Athletic Directors.  This organization has been untouchable for years. Why?  Money talks. Done.

Abuse is abuse, period.  Emotional. Psychological. Physical. Sexual. It seeps into peoples’ brains and becomes neurologically encoded.  Anxiety and/ or depressive behaviors shape their lives and interpersonal relationships. Self-doubt and thought distortions about what they say, how to feel, and/or how to react to any situation can become fear-based, tense, and literally “freeze” a person.  In other words, living a life in a constant stressful state.

Abuse of any kind hits me hard. For 30 years, I’ve had too many patients in my office with either one or multiple episodes of traumatic experiences. I’ve studied it, researched it, and published about it.

At least these college players had each other, had Eric Murdoch to “side-bar” talk with him while he was there, or thankfully they could get away/ go elsewhere.

So while I’ll watch my Sox games with joy in Mudville this week, glad to see Garfien, Melton, and Big Frank back in the saddle, I can’t help wonder: how many people knew?  How much did they know?  Where was the judgment and morality of those in positions of power?  Where were the ethical standards that Rutgers claims to hold so high?

But ultimately: what’s going on in the minds of the young men, who had to live each day with the abuse?  And how did it become “normalized” for some, who reportedly were not as “impacted?”

Well I was.  Certainly by reading the articles, watching the interviews, and seeing the video. And I’m with the 91% out of over 100,000 online voters who agreed that Rice should have been fired, as he was today.

But the other 9% who thought he should remain?  The 900 people who apparently didn’t see, think, or feel what we did?  What about them?  Is Rice's behavior “normal” from their perspective?

And what ever happened to all the abuse victims of Sandusky?  Maybe we should go ask the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Boston, Milwaukee, or Philadelphia – all of which have “settled” their sexual abuse cases with millions of dollars. So that's all settled now.

I’m sure that will do it.  Show me the money.

Just as the N.C.A.A. would have it.   Show me the money. Period.

Leave a comment