As investigators from the Office of Civil Rights prepare for a trip to Waco, Texas to investigate Baylor University, employees of the school continue to make headlines for making very ill-advised comments.
Kim Mulkey, the women’s basketball coach, verbalized the frustration many at Baylor have over the way their school is being portrayed nationally (i.e., as a bad, unsafe place for women; a culture that protects athletics and athletes at all costs, including the safety of the student body generally). At least that is the excuse people have been providing for her since her on-court, post-game comments last weekend during which she said: “If somebody is around you and they ever say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you should knock them right in the face.” In the actual post-game conference she said about the scandal, ” [I am] tired of hearing about it” and to that people should “move on, find another story to write.”
Let’s problematically put aside for a moment the violence of her statement and reflect on the message.
I don’t know if Mulkey has lost recruits because of the scandal; women who said they didn’t feel safe attending Baylor. But it’s possible that Mulkey is simply sticking up for her school.
Regardless, she is sending the message that not only is everything alright at Baylor–everything is great–because Baylor is “the damn best school in America!” This is the ultra-nationalism of school pride. It is ignoring the problems Baylor so clearly has and refuses to acknowledge. In that moment (and in subsequent moments I will turn to next) she is contributing to the culture she–and many, many others–says does not exist at Baylor.
In doing so she 1) encourages a violent response (see again ultra-nationalism) and 2) erases the experiences of the women who were raped at Baylor.
Sunday (a day after mistakes were made): Apologies were issued. Mulkey does an interview with ESPNW writer Mechelle Voepel in which she says the comment about punching people was a “poor choice of words.” What she really meant, she explains, was that people should be firm with those who are speaking badly of Baylor. She has interpreted the rumors that parents would not send their daughters to Baylor as judgements on the women currently attending BU. The sentiments behind those alleged rumors are more aimed at the safety of future college students. There is no implication that the women who choose be there now are misguided.
She said she takes seriously the situations of the women who were assaulted and that victim should always be helped. She said she would never support anybody who denied help to victims. But she added that she does not “think that everybody at Baylor should be put under an umbrella as all being a part of the things that happened. I can’t fathom anybody not helping someone who is a victim of that type of crime. I don’t condone it. My words [Saturday] did not express exactly what I was trying to say.”
It remains unclear what exactly she was saying. But I will offer an interpretation of the initial comments and apology: Baylor is awesome. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But don’t hit them as you tell them that. My daughter went here and she was fine. Everything is fine. Yea, maybe some bad things happened to a few women, but not everyone here is responsible for that so please stop asking me questions about it and let me coach basketball.
Mulkey added insult to injury in the wake of the apology. In post-game comments just a day later she refused to answer questions about her comments. She just kept referring people to the Voepel article.
Mulkey is clearly a part of the Baylor culture that has created this scandal. She may not have directly refused help to a victim, but her denial of the realities on the campus she is trying to bring young women to is part of the culture that allowed those actions to occur. There will be no change at Baylor until people there acknowledge the problems that existed, the problems that persist, and that major changes need to be implemented–including training your employees on what to say about the scandal.