Hazing lawsuit shines the wrong light on Clemson women’s soccer

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If you’re surprised hazing happens in collegiate sports, you probably don’t know that collegiate sports are a thing, they’re fertile ground for a sad, athletic bravado, and that attitude too often augurs heartbreaking results. And by too often, I mean more than never.

More than never may have happened in January 2011, according to a lawsuit filed last month in South Carolina. That’s where Haley Ellen Hunt, then a freshman soccer player at Clemson University, alleges she was woken up in the middle of the night, blindfolded, and crammed into a car trunk before being disoriented and told to sprint, blindfold on, until she ran into a brick wall.

The brick wall, presumably, wasn’t in the plan, but it allegedly caused “lacerations and abrasions to both hands, serious lacerations and abrasions to her face, a concussion, and a traumatic brain injury.” Teammates wanted to call an ambulance. The coaching staff said no, saying (as attributed to head coach Eddie Radwanski), “if you care about your job and our [team], then you will not tell anyone about this.”

Did I mention that the hazing was conducted with the full knowledge of Clemson’s coaching staff? According to the lawsuit, the staff knew the players had keys to Riggs Field, where Hunt was led to a dark room next to the field, spun around and yelled at to the point of disorientation, and told to run out of the room unsighted until she hit that wall.

Hunt, unable to attend class or practice after the incident, would eventually need the attention of a neurologist and plastic surgeon, all of which would go down as one of the worst incidents in hazing history if Radwanski hadn’t called Hunt before she enrolled to bully her, saying she’d never play for Clemson. Allegedly, Radwanski, who had taken over as head coach from Hershey Strosberg, told Hunt and other freshmen not to bother showing up, telling Hunt “in two years when I look at you sitting on the bench and you are crying because you are not playing, I’m going to laugh and say, I told you so.”

Heard enough? Because I’m glossing over a lot of other, gruesome details from the complaint, like a pattern of verbal and emotional abuse that continued even after Hunt sustained her injuries. There’s the allegation that hazing has existed in Clemson’s soccer program since the 1990s, with the administration continually failing to pay more than lip service to written measures designed to eradicate the practice from the university’s campus.

Hunt eventually red-shirted her freshman year and would only make 17 appearances (five starts) for the Tigers. She earned the Bill D’Andre Tiger Paw Award in 2013 for “outstanding commitment and selflessness within the team culture”, but she only played 65 minutes last season.

According to the lawsuit, her vision is permanently impaired. She requires neurological treatment, physical therapy, and has to take daily medication. After two years of headaches and difficulties with school following the incident, she sought the help of a specialist who said her soccer career was over. He also questioned why Hunt was ever allowed to resume play without a proper neurological evaluation. As a result of the incident, the specialist said, Hunt has suffered “substantial decreased cognitive function.” Hunt’s only 21 years old.

Ultimately, this story isn’t about hazing, the disturbing use of authority in sport, the ridiculous choices imposed on collegiate athletes, or a grotesque environment that cycles freshman victims into positions to perpetuate abuse (all of Clemson soccer’s 2011 upperclassmen are named as defendants in the suit). It’s about an 18-year-old from South Carolina who, recruited under one, promising set of circumstances, may have had her life irrevocably changed by a person and school that created a system of abuse. They didn’t see her as a woman who still had a full life to live beyond Clemson. They saw her as a commodity.

Even while writing this, I regret the feedback that’s going to come – the sliver of people justifying these customs, as if they’re life affirming experiences. The strong survive this, the strong say, as if that doesn’t pervert what strength can be. The strength can be getting into that trunk. Strength can be putting up with the abuse while thinking the best of those around you. Strength can be sprinting out of a shed into darkness, believing faith in upperclassmen, coaching staff, and administrators will keep you from becoming a headline on some soccer blog. Strength can be misplaced.

If even a small percentage of what Hunt alleges is true, that strength was misplaced; naively, but understandably so. But think about how many 18-year-olds around the country are putting themselves in the same situation, knowing any show of defiance — of common sense — could see their scholarship revoked, their education denied, and their dreams destroyed.

What kind of world have we created where some people choose between a blindfold and a wall on one side, forgoing education and soccer on the other?

Hopefully, that’s not the world we live in, but I wasn’t surprised to hear about this story. Whether we’re talking about the Miami Dolphins, Clemson University, or Vermont High School, hazing and bullying exists at every level or sport, and beyond. And tacit support for it exists in every sport, and beyond. It’s part of the culture. It’s part of the problem.

Whether Haley Ellen Hunt’s allegations prove true, there are more Haley Ellen Hunts out there. This won’t be the last time we’re left asking: How did this happen? How did we get here? And how can we stop it?

Ibrahimovic scores twice, 10-man Galaxy ties Sounders 2-2

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in each half and the LA Galaxy tied the Seattle Sounders 2-2 on Saturday night despite playing nearly the entire match down a man.

The Galaxy’s Daniel Steres was sent off in the sixth minute for the denial of obvious goal opportunity.

Ibrahimovic tied it at 1 for the Galaxy (13-11-2) with a header in the 45th minute. In the 65th minute, he was taken down by Kim Kee-hee while going for a header in the area and converted the penalty, making it 2-1 with his 20th goal of the season.

LA defender Jorgen Skjelvik scored an own goal in the 82nd minute when he inadvertently deflected goalkeeper David Bingham’s attempted clearance into the Galaxy net.

Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 42nd minute for the Sounders (11-8-7). Harry Shipp hustled to round up a loose ball and fed it to an open Ruidiaz, who slotted it home.

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Three unanswered goals from FC Dallas to earn a draw, a late Jozy Altidore goal and Chicago cruises past Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the busy action.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Montreal, Dallas split points in six-goal thriller

The Montreal Impact, up 3-0 in the 56th minute, probably thought they had the game in the bag. Dallas said, ‘not so fast.’

With three unanswered goals – one of those in stoppage time – Dallas did the unthinkable, stunning the Impact and flying back home with a point that tastes like three.

Dallas, like practically everyone else in the West this season, is dreaming of cracking into the final seven. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. What was palpable on Saturday, however, is that Dallas played with a lot of determination on the road and with all the odds against them.


Chicago gets by Philadelphia with ease

The Philadelphia Union are good but not good enough to beat the Chicago Fire, apparently.

It could have been the league’s well-known parity, or the fact that the Union were on the road, but the Fire were able to squeeze out the three points, winning 2-0 with 10 men. Nicolas Gaitan earned a straight red right before halftime.

The Union, a proven side time and time again this season, alternatively, have questions to answer and a set of defects that were unearth Saturday (including finishing) to polish up on. But as they shown several times this season after suffering loses, they’ll bounce back under Jim Curtin.

The Fire (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal, Toronto and Orlando, while Philadelphia (45 points) remain clear leaders in the Eastern Conference.


 

NYCFC too much for Cincinnati 

NYCFC had quite the showing.

With Valentin Castellanos and Heber recording a brace each, Allan Cruz’s goal stood no chance. City, who are now third in the Eastern Conference with 41 points (one behind Atlanta), are clearly in midseason form, while FC Cincinnati is yet to win under Ron Jans.

With a defense that has allowed 61 goals – like the one above – Jans’ rest of the season is looking bleaker than brighter. But then again, it’s with a team he purely adopted. It worth noting that New York’s attack has produced eight goals in the last three games, so maybe that was the determining factor.

 

 


 

Altidore earns last-minute draw for Toronto

Like in many other instances, it was Altidore to the rescue for Toronto FC.

Its goal No. 10 for the 29-year-old goal, making it his fourth season with double digit goals. Jonathan Osorio, too, pitched in a goal in the 42nd minute. 26 games in, this is exactly when Greg Vanney needs his big-time players to step up.

The Columbus Crew, in contrast, can’t catch a break. Once again the superior team, a lack of finishing and defensive concentration make it three-straight draws for the Caleb Porter’s men. With seven games to go and seven points out of playoff contention, even a late run might not be enough for a postseason regular.

Sporting KC earn valuable win against Quakes (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  While the San Jose Earthquakes continue to drop in the playoff race, Sporting Kansas City are slowly creeping their way into contention after their 2-1 victory against San Jose. The Quakes, who have lost their last two games, are now sixth in the Western Conference and depending on the Portland Timbers’ result, can fall right above the red line. Surely, it’s not what Matias Almeyda desires, despite being the master of overcoming adversity. Peter Vermes’ side, on the other hand, is now six points out of the playoffs, a reachable distance with eight games left. The Quakes had the game in their hands in the first half, though, controlling the pace of the game. The home side’s finishing in the final 45 that got the job done, however. Moving forward, turnaround for both teams will have to be instantaneous as the Quakes travel to LAFC and Kansas City hosts Minnesota United, respectively.

Three moments that mattered

25′ — Wondolowski sets MLS record —

Whatever you do, don’t leave Wondolowski unmarked unless you want to get scored on.

48′ — Feilhaber rips it into the back of the net  —

Benny Feilhaber still has it, obviously.

73′ — Smith seals a massive victory for Sporting  —

Not who one expected to earn Kansas City three points, but soccer is all about surprises.

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Chris Wondolowski sets another MLS record in historic career

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Just months removed from becoming MLS’ all-time leading goalscorer, Chris Wondolowski is putting pen to the record book once again.

The 36-year-old is the league’s first player to ever score 10 goals (or more) in 10 consecutive seasons. His tenth of the season came against Sporting Kansas City, who, for one reason or another, left him unmarked in the box on a corner kick – an imprudent defensive strategy.

Wondolowski’s regular-season tally is now at 154 goals, 31 goals clear of Kei Kamara‘s 123, who is the second highest active goalscorer in the league.

The San Jose Earthquakes captain’s record run began in 2010. He was 27.