Friday, May 7, 2010

Spot On About Perception Of Guilt

A few posts ago, I was explaining about perception of guilt and how, guilty or not, perception of guilt usually remains after a not-guilty result. In that post, I wrote: Around the country, when Duke athletics is discussed, the content is usually Duke basketball and how great that program is, and Duke lacrosse and the perception of wrong-doing.

When the tragic story of Virginia lacrosse players—a member of the men’s team is charged with killing a member of the women’s team—broke earlier this week, national news media rushed to the scene, started doing background checks on the male and female players involved, and pieced together stories for broadcast and print. One in particular caught my attention because of what I had written about Duke (see above).

Norah O’Donnell of NBC News was in Charlottesville. In her piece, she reported that the male charged with murder “was an honor student the very same prep school where several of the so-called Duke lacrosse players went. During that scandal in 2006, the players were falsely accused of rape. And, (the UVA player) told the Washington Post, ‘I sympathize with the team. They’ve been scrutinized so hard and no one knows what has happened yet.’ ” You can listen to that report by clicking here: UVA Lacrosse Murder.

At the moment I heard O’Donnell refer to Duke, my point about perception was confirmed. To me, it was not necessary to include Duke in the report. Yes, there was a connection, but by doing so, she then linked the Duke lacrosse players to the murder at UVA. Even worse, later that morning, a person from Duke very familiar with the Duke lacrosse players explained that just one of those Duke lacrosse players attended that prep school. She said “several.”

Was it necessary for O’Donnell to include Duke in the report? What do you think? Click “comments” below and chime in.
Speaking of comments, yesterday, Anonymous posted one that in part appears complimentary to what I have to say in my writing, but, if you had seen the entire comment, you would know better. That person wrote, “ is amazing how much you know about how everything on campus should be run, from the Chancellor's office, to the AA office, to development, and now to hiring a new Athletic Director. There must be a helluva lot of pressure that comes with always being the smartest guy in the room---regardless of the topic...” Anonymous wrote more before and after that comment but as an ugly personal attack on me, so, using the power of the pen (and the computer keyboard), I edited it and posted only the part you see.

I do not claim to be the authority on any of those things, but I do have my opinion and am willing to post it in a somewhat intelligent format instead of being a moron, posting stupid comments on news outlet websites or not speaking out and then complaining later. I write what I write for two reasons: I enjoy writing (am I’m told I pretty good at it as I pat myself on the back); and I have opinions, stories and facts which I want to express, knowing that some of it goes in ears on one side of some heads and immediately out the other side, not stopping anywhere in between as food for thought while others soak it in and appreciate what I say. And, there are few other outlets that will allow me to do this. So, I do this here. Some who read this stuff agree wholeheartedly while others do not.

To Anonymous: Thanks for your opinion about me. Keep posting, but getting personal is not necessary.
And, speaking of getting personal, or not, the results of the Democratic Primary for the United States Senate fell just a little short of a prediction I made to a local news person who covers politics. I told him there was a good chance Elaine Marshall would compile the 40% of the votes she needed to get the opportunity to face incumbent Richard Burr (R-NC) in the fall. He was surprised when I said it, and I think he was surprised when she hit 36% in Tuesday’s election.

I mentioned getting personal because that’s what that particular race did not get this time around, at least to each other. Cal Cunningham and Marshall ran somewhat of mirror campaigns, both saying to elect them as the best chance to unseat Senator Burr. In my column Tuesday of this week, I explained my perception/opinion of the differences in the two, and those who voted did what I expected. Marshall, in her campaign, came across as a veteran of governing, which she is, and Cunningham came across as an up-start, which he is, grasping at traction.

If Marshall had not been in the race, Cunningham may have hit the 40% threshold but only because of money and its influence on elections. But, even if he had 10 times the money for the primary, he would not have won or come any closer. There is one other thing to consider: The John Edwards factor. Cunningham, though his commercials, also reminded us of when Edwards ran for Senate. Charming, good looking, great salesman. We remember how that turned out.

And, do not shy away from the idea that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s endorsement of Cunningham had a negative impact on his bid Tuesday and that it will be cause for concern next month in the run-off. We North Carolinians prefer to make our own selections without someone from Washington telling us how to vote. Especially if that someone is Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader.

In June, do not be surprised when Marshall wins with 55% of the vote. If Cunningham attempts to get personal—to go negative—with Marshall, the margin will be wider.
Speaking of voting, the polls remain open for your selection of NC State Athletics Director. Just click the radio button of choice in the upper right hand corner of this page. And, have a nice weekend. Happy Mother’s Day!


  1. Mentioning Duke and her feeble effort to tie the murder and alleged rape together is the heigth of yellow journalism. Shame on the reporter and her editor. Incidentally, I am a NCSU alumnus.
    Winston Hooker, Sr.

  2. Spot on you say. I do not think so. You are saying that the Duke Lacrosse three going to trial and being found not guilty would change this reporting. Again, I do not think so, as people would have said they had high price lawyers who got them off. That pesty perception is just not fixable and to many people have such different perceptions. The Attorney General Roy Cooper says this: "we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges." So, when I hear something bad or good about lacrosse I think of the bad things Durham, Duke, the police, the DA, judges, and the media did to a bunch of young men.

  3. To anonymnous comment #2: What I am saying is that no matter what happened with the Duke lacrosse deal, Duke will always get the short end of that deal. Going to trial and being found not guilt would not change a thing.

  4. My first reaction last week to the news about the death of the UVA lacrosse player and the UVA player accused: Fairly or unfairly, I immediately stereotyped him and his ilk. That ilk being the typical college lacrosse player: white, northeastern prep schooler, spoiled, hard-partying, an entitled member of the "I'm-a-lacrosse-player,-I'm- tough,-I-can-behave-however-I-please-the-rules-don't-apply-to-me" culture. A culture enabled and allowed to fester first by parents, then by coaches. I think of them attending eastern/northeastern schools-UVA, UNC, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and Syracuse among others. My awareness of, and my ensuing prejudice against, this stereotype probably began for me in Chapel Hill in the early 80's with anecdotes of UNC players' escapades. (Therefore, I wasn't the least bit surprised when the Duke scandal broke, and I assumed there was merit to the dancer's accusations, as did Duke administration and local law enforcement as demonstrated by their hasty initial responses and actions taken). So, and I'm not proud to say, even though someone tragically died, I was not totally surprised with the UVA story. Yes, Norah O'Donnel's context linking Duke was gratuitous, missed the mark, and was therefore unfair. But it might be fair to connect the UVA incident to at least a discussion of the college lacrosse stereotype that causes some of us to not be absolutely shocked by this story.

  5. I agree with the last comments. But, for some reason, when we had a lacrosse team at NC State, the players didn't seem to be that upper-crust he describes, but they were a little on the rough side and they probably came from the same neighborhoods as those at UNC, Duke, Virginia and other schools. But, when the "Duke Lacrosse Story" broke a a few years ago, I was one of the first to say "not guilty as charged; only guilty of being stupid when they are all so smart." More comments on this subject are welcomed.

  6. So Jim, since initially it was a "she said, they said" situation and you were one of the "first" to say "not guilty as charged......" did you have some info that Nifong didn't have? I established that my prejudice colored my initial reaction, but I wasn't nearly as convinced of their guilt as you were of their innocence. Perhaps we were both guilty of some kind of bias here?


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