Editor’s Note: Two days ago, a report written by an attorney hired by Virginia State University made the claim that the November assault on WSSU QB Rudy Johnson was a spontaneous event perpetrated by a single VSU football player following some trash talking. The following is WSSU Chancellor Donald Reaves’ full statement regarding the release of this “investigation.”
Since I was not provided a copy of the report prior to its release to the media, I needed time to read it before responding. My review of the report reveals precisely what I had anticipated, that all of the young men in the bathroom, with the exception of Mr. Britt, deny any involvement. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that those interviewed refused to say anything that would implicate themselves or their teammates. What is hard to believe is that anyone, including the leadership at VSU, would not question such denials.
But let’s assume for the sake of discussion that the young men are telling the truth. Where does that leave us? It leaves us is with an admission of guilt on the part of a VSU football player. So what should the institutional response be from VSU? What level of responsibility should VSU assume for the actions of the assumed single culprit? Is VSU any less responsible because the assault was carried out by one of its players as opposed to several? I think not. These are just some of the questions, there are many more, that looms large in the aftermath of the incident that brought embarrassment to both institutions, and they deserve answers. Hopefully they will be addressed by the conference as it conducts its investigation.
I did find it interesting that the VSU folks found my comments at the banquet and our teams chant of “let’s eat” to be offensive. My comments are available for inspection and they show that I commended both teams for their accomplishments and the work that it took to get to the championship game. As Chancellor of Winston-Salem State, I did not believe that it was out of place for me to wish my own team well. Had VSU leadership been in attendance at the championship banquet, I am sure that they would have extended similar well-wishes to the VSU players. That is what we would have expected and we would not have been offended. As for the “let’s eat” chant, that has been the team chant for four years. The team had used the same chant at previous conference championship luncheons without any reaction from opposing teams, and it certainly has never incited opponents to violence. But again, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that some of the players and the VSU coach were offended. My response to that would be that it is hard to believe that such a perceived offense should cause one to resort to violence. It is certainly not justification for the action of the assumed single assailant as the report implies, nor is it justification for the out-of-control behavior of the head football coach following the altercation.
I find it hard to believe that anyone would take seriously the findings of this report. The report, generated approximately three months after the incident, notes on page two that the investigator got his mandate from the VSU president’s commitment to “uncovering the facts surrounding this incident.” That commitment was lost in this investigative report. I cannot understand how the investigator could uncover the facts of the incident when his interviews were limited to people who study or work at VSU. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that they all tell the same story. No interviews were conducted with people from WSSU who were in attendance and no requests for such interviews have been received (VSU has not responded to WSSU requests to interview VSU students and staff that were known to have been in the restroom or in close proximity when the assault occurred). The report relied almost exclusively on the testimonials of the young men who may have been involved in the assault on WSSU quarterback Rudy Johnson, which is a serious methodological flaw that raises questions about the credibility of its conclusions. WSSU quarterback Rudy Johnson reported that he was punched, stomped and kicked, and he was left with headaches, a black-eye, a sore back and sore ribs. To ignore the physical damage inflicted upon this young man, or to conclude that it was caused by a single assailant wielding a single punch, is absurd. The only thing that this report uncovered was the facts according to VSU.
In conclusion, the University stands by its assertions that Rudy Johnson was assaulted by more than one of the VSU football players, that its football coach acted irresponsibility when asked to control his football players and respect that the venue had become a crime scene, and that senior administration at VSU failed in its responsibility to exercise control over its football team.
February 5, 2014