Just days from the Super Bowl, the Seattle Times brings us a powerful story of football, rape and forgiveness. The chief antagonist is Jerramy Stevens, a 6'7, 255-pound tight end on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2000 he played for the University of Washington Huskies, the third-ranked team in the country (and possibly the third-rapiest, given the three other Husky-on-"groupie" rapes alleged that same year.) But Stevens' case is special, in that it was enabled by so many administrators, authorities, lawyers, and coaches. In high school, where his dad was principal, Stevens served time for beating a friend with a baseball bat and some more time for failing his piss tests and punching through school walls. He should have lost his scholarship but there were lawyers, fans — even Mormons — ready to lobby, protest, and write letters on his behalf. In college, Stevens was stopped like 99 times for DUIs, hit-and-runs and driving with licenses that had been revoked due to DUIs and hit-and runs — a harbinger, perhaps, of the DUIs that would follow in his NFL career. "Sometimes you have to give people a chance," they would say. "He's a good kid etc. etc." But Seattle police detective Maryanne Parker didn't believe it — especially after, investigating a rape charge against Stevens, she found an email he'd written to another girl with whom he'd been romantically involved:
"i know that you are not going to beliewhat i have to say especially after satterday night but when i got your e-mail today i laughed a first but then it started to sink in and my heart started to break as i read over your words.
"i realize that i have [messed] up and I want to talk to you about being with you and how i can make it up to you. this is not a joke i want to have you in my arms and know that you are mine and ythat nothing that i have done or [a friend] has said caould ever change the way that i feel about you. when i think back to the night that i spent with you by ourselves i wish that i would have done one thing and that is, i wish i would have put ... "
Stevens then describes, in explicit terms, an anal-sex act he wanted to do to her. He closes with: "you whore dont ever utter my name again."
After sending it, Stevens showed the note to a teammate, who called it a "funny ass email."
So at this point it probably wouldn't surprise you that someone like Jerramy Stevens was accused of drugging a virgin sorority girl and anally-raping her in the alley next to a frat house. It probably also wouldn't surprise you that aiding him in this effort, directly aiding the cause of clemency for Jerramy in this crime, were the University of Washington Athletic director Barbara Hedges, then-head coach Rick Neuheisel, current head coach Keith Gilbertson, the University of Washington legal department — who fought to get the accuser's name released in the civil aftermath after the rape case was dismissed — King County prosecutors Norm Maleng, Dan Satterberg and Mark Larson, and lawyer and loyal UW football fan Mike Hunsinger, who represented Husky teammates in many cases for pennies on the billable hour.
And finally, it probably also wouldn't surprise you that most of these people had the same reasons for maintaining "reasonable doubt" for Jerramy: Girls are gold-diggers, groupies, looking for attention; as if there is no other reason for the existence of women, no other source of affirmation for them, than perpetuating that mythic higher caste occupied by men whose raw, caveman-like aggression keeps the fans in the seats, the donors sending checks, the Fortune 500 companies shelling out a million for thirty second spots, and the wheels of the economy in motion.
The story of Jerramy Steens reminded Anna of a Joan Didion story in an early '90s issue of the New Yorker on a rapist group of Orange County high school football players, the Spur Posse. As explanation for his son's "unlawful sexual intercourse" with one or more girls, one father proffered (and yes she looked this up):
These girls pre-planned these things. They wanted to be looked on favorably, they wanted to be part of the clique. They wanted to be, hopefully, the girlfriends of these studs on campus.
When prosecutors decided not to charge Stevens, Neuheisel and Hedges agreed that Stevens should not be disciplined. Neuheisel's test was this: If a player embarrassed himself, his family or the university, he should be punished. This episode embarrassed the UW, Neuheisel said, but "given the prosecution's decision not to go forward, it looked as if Jerramy was not the reason for the embarrassment."
But what era is this? Who are we? Do people believe these things in their hearts? Does it ever strike them that any other black man in this country with Stevens' record — well, he wouldn't have been able to rack up a record like that, he'd be serving a life sentence by now? You've seen the MSNBC prison specials! Is that some sort of societal achievement, that an athlete's economic importance to his school can put him in the impunity ranks with Jeff Epstein? Because, you know, break a limb; contract a superbug — and it's All Motherfucking Over.
A few days ago Dodai's mom showed me some papers she had from an estate sale held in Alabama in the early 1800s. There was a man for sale, he was crippled; the asking price was one dollar.
"See, he cost less than the teacups," she pointed out.
As it was, all his legal problems have chipped a lot off Jerramy Stevens' asking price.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him — on the cheap — for $600,000, which was $5,000 above the minimum for a player with his experience.
"He is a big, powerful, speedy tight end," said general manager Bruce Allen. "He has had some off-the-field issues that have hampered him a bit. We had a very serious talk with him today.
Convicted of assault and accused of rape, star player received raft of second chances [Seattle Times]
Related: The 2000 Washington Huskies Were Horrible People [Deadspin]
The Quarterbacks' Sideline Play [NY Times]