A Saturday Baltimore Sun had a two-part article on the 2006-7 Duke lacrosse team represented one of the few times in this entire affair that everyone seemed to come across well. Duke’s John Burness offered generous statements about university policy regarding the readmission of Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty if charges are dismissed or a trial ends with a not-guilty verdict. Coach John Danowski stated he would welcome the duo back to the team. And several players were quoted in a warm fashion.
In short everyone—Duke, the lacrosse team, the accused players—came across well in the article, which was picked up by the wire services.
Then came this morning’s Herald-Sun and an interview with AD Joe Alleva. Alleva’s role in this affair is an odd one: initially, he was one of the five Duke employees to offer anything close to positive comments about the players. Then, after a high-profile personal incident that led some to demand his ouster, he gave an interview praising Duke for handling the lacrosse situation “really, really well.”
Asked about Danowski’s comments by the Herald-Sun, Alleva responded:
If they get reinstated back into school—that would be the first process—then we will reconsider their status with the lacrosse team. It all comes back to them being reinstated into school first, and then we would consider it.
The key word there is “consider.”
It seemed to me that Alleva’s words represented a backtracking from the Baltimore Sun article; but I can see where people would disagree with that interpretation. But they surely differed radically in tone from the quotes in the Baltimore Sun. Where Burness and Danowski were generous and inviting, Alleva was cold and vaguely ominous.
So I emailed John Burness to ask if Alleva’s remarks should be interpreted as a shift in university policy; he generously took time from his Sunday to respond. Burness told me:
- His statement to the
Sun describes university policy and how the university would approach any re-admission of Seligmann and Finnerty. Baltimore
- As coach of the lacrosse team, Danowski, not Alleva, decides whether Seligmann or Finnerty would rejoin the team.
It would seem to me, then, that it would be best for all concerned to pretend as if the Herald-Sun article never appeared. Given that in the same article Alleva also described the winless Duke football team as a “program going in the right direction,” he’s not exactly oozing credibility at this point anyway.
The lessons from this mini-affair:
- The Herald-Sun will find a way to spin in a negative fashion even the most positive story about the players.
- Alleva’s unfortunate remarks took some of the luster off what should have been an unequivocally positive story for Duke.
Perhaps Alleva might want to consider—and the key word there is “consider”—these lessons the next time he speaks to the Herald-Sun.