Last weekend Husch Blackwell released the findings of its investigation into LSU’s Title IX and sexual assault responses over the last few years. The picture the report painted was an ugly, brutal truth— that LSU as an institution had repeatedly failed to either report, investigate, or punish individuals accused of sexual assault. You can find a full story on the report here.
So we now know the truth. The band-aid has been ripped off and the whole world is now aware of what has been happening at LSU for some time. The emotions felt as a result are complicated. The issues raised in this report go far beyond sports and affect every student on campus, but I’d like for this story to just focus on the sports side for now.
If you’re on this site, you’re almost certainly a fan of LSU Athletics. Your only interest in this story may be if any potential violations could prevent the Tigers from winning more championships. You might be relieved that this is all behind us and think the only work left to do is replace the portraits of Les Miles in the Football Ops Building.
This is a complicated issue and complicated emotions come out as a result. You should, without a shred of uncertainty, be angry that LSU put women in danger by not properly preventing sexual assault. Above all, women on campus were unsafe because of LSU’s incompetence. Even if you haven’t been a student in years, that should be horrifying to you.
Along with your anger, you might feel sadness. Be sad for the women who suffered these traumatic events because those wounds heal slowly, if ever. I may sound like a broken record, but their pain is at the center of all of this.
You might also be feeling guilty that you invested so much time and positive energy into supporting a man like Les Miles for many years. The guilt you are feeling is a sign of empathy. If you feel icky and sick over that support, don’t beat yourself up.
Supporting LSU football over the past decade does not make you complicit in sexual assault. You were lied to. That should bother you and make you angry. If it doesn’t and you see no issue in what transpired, then yeah, you’re complicit. And you’ve got some things to work through.
Les Miles being a gross person shouldn’t take away from the accomplishments of people like Patrick Peterson, Glenn Dorsey, Jacob Hester, Tyrann Mathieu, etc. You shouldn’t bury your happy memories because someone else lied to you. But they are inevitably tainted, which shows how hiding the truth will always come back to bite.
This is a difficult crossroads. You should be angry at LSU because you love LSU. Rooting for these teams is a tradition that brings us together. It’s our way of life and the things we find joy in year-round (shit did I just say It Just Means More?)
So while your primary anger and sadness should be for the victims, it is okay to feel personally betrayed. You were. Any one of those women could have been you. The stately oaks and broad magnolias are supposed to signal a unifying, familial place. Whether you’re there as a student, football fan or both, it’s a place where you come together with people. For that land to be used by some to exploit others sexually is enraging.
Another complicated emotion is hope. I feel hopeful that legitimate change can result from the damning Husch Blackwell report. It pulled no punches in revealing LSU’s failure. I hope things can change, but it’s dangerous to assume they will. I can’t blame a sexual assault victim for still being hesitant to report an incident based on what we’ve learned. Doing this requires trust, and it’s hard to trust LSU after they lied to us for the past decade.
I’m also hopeful LSU will see serious improvements because the spotlight will remain on them. This investigation was only conducted because USA Today exposed some of the truth. The media scrutiny will continue and any slip-up will be pounced upon by journalists. To use a sports term, LSU is “on the hot seat.”
So what do we do from here? Do we just go back to hoping LSU gets all the best recruits and goes 15-0 again this year? Do we abandon our love for the school entirely? It depends on what you can do. What every one of us can do is show support for survivors, whether that’s by donating to institutions like RAINN nationally, or the STAR Center in Louisiana.
It’s okay to continue to support LSU football. As stated earlier, they betrayed you by lying to you. Continuing to support the team means trusting LSU to do the right thing this time. I understand if you’re hesitant and won’t try to convince you otherwise, but I think things will be different. They have to be.
When I think about the upcoming football season, all I can think about is seeing more than 100,00 of you wonderful people, maskless and vaccinated (*knocks furiously on wood*) gathering to eat good food and watch a weird game with an oblong ball. It’s one of the greatest joys in my life. But it’s not worth women suffering for it. They can’t any longer. We have to demand it.
We’ve loved Purple. We need LSU to Live Gold.