Duke Basketball Star Dismissed, But Not Until A Year After Rape Allegations Surface

11918529495_cf0c682d1d_zRemember what happened to beloved Penn State football coach Joe Paterno? In 2001 he was fired from his position of 45 years after it was revealed that he hadn’t taken action upon learning that one of his assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, was allegedly molesting boys.

Take note, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Last month, Krzyzewski dismissed player Rasheed Sulaimon from the university’s renowned basketball team—the first time Coach K had dismissed an athlete in 35 seasons. No reason was given other than the vague notion that Sulaimon had “been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member” of the Blue Devils.

But now, entrepreneurial reporting from Emma Baccellieri and Nick Martin in the university’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, has shown that Sulaimon was alleged to have sexually assaulted two female students—and that Krzyzewski and other school administrators had known about the allegations a year before the player’s dismissal. The alleged crimes may not be the reason Sulaimon was kicked off the court, but the fact that the school’s leadership didn’t take any action against the athlete until now is all too familiar and disturbing.

In the new documentary film The Hunting Ground, it’s made clear that colleges have often protected their star athletes against accusations of sexual assault. The Jameis Winston case at Florida State University is only the most recent example. And young women reasonably assume that if they report a rape by a campus hero, they are the ones likely to be vilified.

In fact, the students who said Sulaimon assaulted them never filed complaints against him, afraid of just such a backlash. Instead, The Chronicle reported, both students revealed their stories at a campus student-led diversity retreat called Common Ground, one in October 2013 and the other in February 2014. By March 2014, their allegations had come to Krzyzewski’s attention. But nothing happened.

According to The Chronicle, the university is obligated by Title IX to check out indications of sexual assault, even if the students don’t formally complain, and the majority of Duke employees are required to report sexual assaults. These steps don’t seem to have been taken.

As Kavitha A. Davidson points out in Bloomberg View, Duke is not among the nearly 100 schools currently being investigated for Title IX violations because of possible mishandling of sexual assaults on campus. Perhaps they’ll soon make the list? And perhaps Coach K should add to his must-watch list both The Hunting Ground and another documentary, Happy Valley, which recounts the story of Paterno’s downfall in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.

Meanwhile, Penn State’s new president, Eric Barron, announced in January that the school would revamp its policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault to make them more responsive to students’ declared needs.

As for Rasheed Sulaimon, he may no longer be a member of a highly ranked basketball team, but he’s still a student at Duke. And Jameis Winston will probably be one of the top picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

Photo of Mike Krzyzewski from Flickr user Adam Glanzman under license from Creative Commons 2.0



Michele Kort is senior editor of Ms. She is the author of Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro and coeditor (with Audrey Bilger) of Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage


  1. This article published on 3-4-15 claims “even if the students don’t formally complain, and the majority of Duke employees are required to report sexual assaults. These steps don’t seem to have been taken”. However on 3-3-15 Duke athletic director Kevin White publicly released the following statement “”The athletics department does not investigate or adjudicate matters of student conduct, and cooperates completely in the process. These investigations are conducted thoroughly, in a timely manner, and with great care to respect the privacy and confidentiality of all students involved. Those procedures have been, and continue to be, followed by Coach Mike Krzyzewski and all members of the men’s basketball program.

    “Coach Krzyzewski and his staff understand and have fulfilled their responsibilities to the university, its students and the community. As specified by federal law and university policy, all Duke officials, including Coach Krzyzewski, are prohibited from commenting publicly on any specific individual or situation.”

    So unless Kevin White is lying the statement listed in the article “even if the students don’t formally complain, and the majority of Duke employees are required to report sexual assaults. These steps don’t seem to have been taken” is false and should have been known to be false by the author as the statement from Kevin White was released on 3-3-15 while the publication date listed on the article is 3-4-15.

    • What exactly does the statement from the athletic director mean? I take it that he’s saying the athletic department has done nothing WRONG–but doesn’t actually investigate anything itself. So I don’t think it’s false to say that there doesn’t seem to have been an investigation of the athlete in the past year–by ANY administrative body at Duke–and that no Duke employee reported a possible sexual assault by him.

      • Thomas White says:

        You do understand that it is against the law for Duke to publicly comment on any investigation at the school. This is even mentioned in the student article after they threw out a bunch of accusations that the coaching staff did nothing. They have no proof, you have no proof because it is not public record. It is not a criminal investigation like the Winston issue you mention, or even Chris Jones at Louisville. Maybe before you blog, you should familiarize yourself with the family privacy laws that colleges are under before you throw out accusations. It’s just poor journalism.

  2. Coach K might not ‘investigate or adjudicate matters of student conduct’ but he is the be-all over the BBall team. And if he knew of something last March, RS should have at least been put on the team equivalent of administrative leave until a little more could be found out. Obviously something happened and they’re being very hush hush about it. Here’s a question: RS is being accused of rape. If this was you or one of your players and it wasn’t true, wouldn’t you at least want to spare yourself/your player of the shame and embarrasment by at least issuing a statement saying that it was not true? As far as I know no FERPA (sp?) law prohibits duke or k from doing this, right? BTW, Pitino has spoken about the Jones situation.

  3. how do we balance fundamental idea of “innocent until proven guilty” and what appears to be a demand for immediate suspension/release of students based upon allegations? Is sexual assault the only crime for which a person is guilty until proven innocent?

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