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?

Report: USMNT keeper Steffen to be Man City No. 2 next season

Zack Steffen Man City
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United States men’s national team starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen will not be loaned by Manchester City next season, according to ESPN.

Steffen, 25, is set to back up Ederson for Pep Guardiola’s side next season after a year on loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga.

Steffen needed the loan because he had not yet qualified for a work permit in the United Kingdom. Instead, he starred in plenty of games for promoted Fortuna before suffering a nagging knee injury. Fortuna was relegated to 2.Bundesliga on the final day of the season.

[ MORE: Man City sets a very Pep record ]

There were rumors earlier this year that Claudio Bravo might head for New York City FC in MLS in order to make way for Steffen.

The 17-times capped USMNT bolted for Freiburg in Germany after making his name at the University of Maryland. He returned to the U.S. and became a star with savvy penalty-stopping ability with now-USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and the Columbus Crew.

Guardiola has usually given his No. 2 plenty of time to shines in cup matches, and City expects to compete for every trophy it can. If the club’s European ban is upheld, however, there will far fewer matches on the schedule for the serial Champions League qualifier.

Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: How to watch, start time, stream, prediction

Sheffield United - Chelsea preview
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Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: Frank Lampard’s Chelsea begins life defending third place on the Premier League table when it visits Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday (Watch Live at 12:30 pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues’ 60 points are one more than Leicester City and two clear of old rivals Manchester United.

Also of interest to Chelsea and USMNT fans: The Blues have posted a 20-minute video of every Christian Pulisic touch since Project Restart began earlier this Summer.

Sheffield United beat Wolves at midweek to pull within a point of sixth-place. If Blades stumble, there are three teams within a win of pushing them back beneath the Europa League places.

STREAM SHEFFIELD UNITED – CHELSEA LIVE


Team news

Billy Gilmour is a doubt for Chelsea while Mateo Kovacic is back in training and could be available to Frank Lampard. N’Golo Kante remains out and Jorginho may get a Starting XI recall on Saturday.

John Fleck, Luke Freeman, and John Lundstram are out for Sheffield United while David McGoldrick is a question mark.

What they’re saying

Blades boss Wilder to our own JPW after a 1-0 win over Wolves: “We like to think we’ve brought something in terms of our attitude and our performances to get the results that we’ve got. We had a stretched squad and really had to dig in to get a result. I don’t think you get the result and the performance tonight if you haven’t got something with the ball and I think we did have something with the ball and out of it everybody did a job and tried to stop a very, very talented side from gaining momentum and dominating us. Second half, especially, we looked and it felt like we were really desperate to go and get a winner. Regardless of how late its come, we’ve been rewarded for that attitude.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Christian Pulisic earning Eden Hazard comparisons: “Having played with Eden, he had special talent straight away and draws players towards him to open up space to others. Christian is more direct. He has the ability to break a line and run forward which is a great trait in the modern game. Why I shy away from it the other night is because Eden has been here and done it over a period of time to an incredible level. Christian has it in his hands to make a real impact over time. It’s great to see him [doing well] but there’s a lot of development to come. Christian is taking responsibility to change games.”

Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds here)

The Blades are +575 underdogs according to DraftKings, with Chelsea -167.

A two-goal game for Tammy Abraham was only enough for a Chelsea point at Stamford Bridge when the sides met in a 2-2 draw earlier this season.

Prediction

Chelsea’s had one more days’ rest than the Blades and that seems plenty given the congestion this time of year. Give the Blues a 2-1 win.

How to watch Sheffield United – Chelsea

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Man United’s fear factor, title hopes return

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Manchester United have regained their fear factor since ‘Project Restart’ arrived.

The Red Devils beat Aston Villa 3-0 to become the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a margin of three of more goals.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Manchester United is an attacking juggernaut once again with Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford firing on all cylinders.

They are 17 games unbeaten in all competitions and this run means they are two points off third place and one point off fourth-place Leicester (who they play on the final day) as their quest for the Champions League looks likely to be successful.

Speaking after the game, Paul Pogba told Sky Sports that challenging for the Premier League has to be the standard Manchester United sets for itself.

After the win at Villa, ProSoccerTalk asked Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his reaction to those comments.

“I’m sure Man United will mount a challenge and get back to winning the league. When that is going to happen, that is up to every single person here and how quickly we can make this process go. We are definitely improving as a team, developing but we have to remember we’ve come a long way in one season. Let’s just take Paul’s words into the dressing room and expect and demand more from each other every single day,” Solskjaer said.

This team is brimming with confidence and hunger, as they’ve scored 100 goals in all competitions this season and have playmakers and forwards who are creating 10 or 15 chances every game and have a largely sturdy defense.

When Manchester United turn up to play an opponent, there is now an inevitability they will win. Solskjaer knows all about that fear factor from his playing days, but does he feel other teams now fear them again?

“I don’t know about how teams feel when they want to play us but we scored three today and talking about goal difference, the defenders have done their job. We created chances and could have scored three, four or five more. Of course, you are happy with the way we create chances but we need to be more clinical though,” Solskjaer told ProSoccerTalk.

“Coming into half time 2-0 up, I don’t think our performance warranted a 2-0 lead but I thought second half we played really well. Of course we had the game where we wanted. They had to press and leave gaps and space but it is not easy, there is game after game  after game. We have to keep doing the right things on the pitch and off the pitch.”

Manchester United could easily finish this season by winning eight of their final nine games and it is these results against teams they ‘should’ be beating that will make the difference. Yes, they have a long way to go to reach the levels of Liverpool and Manchester City but they are on that path and making progress.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired the fear factor around Man United disappeared. Almost overnight teams felt like they could beat them, and did, under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

There have been shock defeats under Solskjaer too, but this feels different now. This feels different to brief winning spells and FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League trophies won under LVG and Mourinho.

This Man United side is relentless and Solskjaer not only wants to keep winning, but keep scoring goals too.

“We could have scored many, many more goals and we keep keeping clean sheets. We go into every game wanting to win. If you win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0, it doesn’t matter, you get the points. Hopefully the goal difference won’t be the deciding factor in the end because we should have had 10 more goals the last few games,” Solskjaer said.

With Leicester City to come on the final day of the season in what could be the pivotal clash in deciding whether or not the qualify for the Champions League, the hunger and belief is evident among the Manchester United squad based on Pogba’s reaction.

“We are really pleased with ourselves but know we have to carry on. We talked before the game, we talked in training that we have to carry on. That’s what Manchester [United] is it is a big club. We want to keep the level up, always, and the performance today and the past few weeks, they are very good and they are the standards of Manchester United,” Pogba said. “We didn’t win the Premier League and that is the goal. We didn’t win anything this year. We have to keep working and there is a lot to do. A lot.”

Pogba: Manchester United hoping to win FA Cup, Europa League

Aston Villa - Manchester United recap
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Paul Pogba and Manchester United are cruising through matches and sending a message to the Premier League.

The Red Devils won by three-or-more goals for the fourth-straight match, something that hasn’t been done in the history of the PL, and moved within a point of fourth place thanks to a 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday.

[ RECAP: Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd ]

Injured for most of the year, Pogba scored his first goal of the season in the win. He’s been looking tremendous in the midfield since returning from the coronavirus pause, and has even triggered hope that he’ll sign a new long-term deal with United.

Pogba was asked how he’s feeling about his time at Old Trafford and where it may run:

“Right now I’ve been injured for a very long time,” Pogba said. “I focused on myself to get back and help the team as much as I can. This year I have two goals, to go for the Europa League and the FA Cup so we focus on that.”

United faces Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinal and has one foot, well, most of its body in the Europa League quarterfinals.

The Frenchman says it’s good that the Red Devils are playing as well as they have been, but he’s not getting carried away with accolades.

ASTON VILLA – MANCHESTER UNITED FULL MATCH REPLAY

“We didn’t win the Premier League,” he said. “That’s the goal. We didn’t win anything this year so obviously we have to keep working. There’s a lot to do.”

Pogba thinks United can achieve all of their season goals regardless of what the top four chasers do, but cautioned that the Red Devils cannot ignore their poor start to Thursday’s win.

“We are our own enemy. We have to play not like we did the first 15 minutes but how we finished the game.”