Rasheed Sulaimon’s dismissal from the Duke basketball program is clouded by allegations of sexual assault, which surfaced nearly a year before he was released from the team in January. Multiple sources close to the situation have confirmed that members of the athletic department were made aware of the allegations as early as March 2014.
The Duke men’s basketball department has not provided a detailed explanation of the dismissal, which was the first in head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 35 years at the helm of the program. Sulaimon, a junior, was dismissed from the Duke basketball team Jan. 29 after he “repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations,” Krzyzewski said in his official statement.
Separate allegations of sexual assault by Sulaimon came from two female students in the 2013-14 academic year. Both students voiced allegations publicly, but neither filed a complaint through the Office of Student Conduct or took legal action through the Durham Police Department. The students declined to discuss their allegations with The Chronicle.
In October 2013, a female student said in a large group session at the student-led diversity retreat Common Ground that Sulaimon had sexually assaulted her, three retreat participants said. At the following semester’s Common Ground retreat beginning in February 2014, a second female student said she had been sexually assaulted by Sulaimon, according to four retreat participants.
Common Ground is a four-day retreat in which students discuss identity—including issues involving race, socioeconomic status, gender and sexuality—through interaction with other participants, discussion groups and personal narratives. The retreat is held once each semester, with 56 participants selected from a student applicant pool.
The allegations were brought to the attention of a team psychologist in March 2014, the anonymous affiliate said. That month, the allegations were brought to Krzyzewski and assistant coaches Jon Scheyer and Nate James and associate head coach Jeff Capel.
“Nothing happened after months and months of talking about [the sexual assault allegations],” the anonymous affiliate said. “The University administration knew. Kevin White knew, Mike Cragg knew.”
The fear of backlash from the Duke fan base was a factor in the female students’ decision not to pursue the allegations, sources close to the women said. “[The Jameis Winston sexual assault case reaction] would be the same from a fan base as large and as passionate as Duke’s,” the anonymous affiliate said
Senior Lincoln Wensley, a former secretary in the Duke basketball office and current intern for the Office of News and Communications, became aware of the allegations Jan. 21, 2015 when he heard a fellow intern mentioning what she called “the next big Duke scandal.”
Pretty good rule of thumb I’m picking up on here lately. When a really good player is completely kicked off the team suddenly, just gets the boot seemingly out of nowhere – it’s not going to be for the first reason they give you. You’re not getting flat out dismissed for a mean text (cough couch Chris Jones), and it doesn’t look like you’re getting released for “struggling to meet necessary obligations.” Unless of course those “necessary obligations” Coach K was talking about are “being a normal human being who doesn’t sexually assault people in a society,” allegedly.
Do I think this is “the next big Duke scandal” like the student journalist suggested? Probably a little overblown. And I definitely wouldn’t jump to any conclusions and drop that “allegedly” tag without some hard facts and an actual legal conviction, especially in today’s climate where rape allegations spread through the internet like wildfire and make everyone pick up their pitchforks prematurely. But where there’s smoke there’s fire, and a major member of the #4 team in the country being unceremoniously kicked off the team and told not to come back followed by some actual recorded events of sexual assault allegations coming out and seemingly not dealt with for a year is not a great look. Coach K haters, it’s game time for you.