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: Man City could use Gabriel Jesus to get Rodri

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At the root of this report is a question to which we don’t know the answer: How highly does Pep Guardiola rate Gabriel Jesus?

A report from Spanish outlet AS says Guardiola could use his young striker to lure Atletico Madrid into a swap deal, landing Manchester City their stirring defensive midfielder Rodri.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Rodri is a nearly year older than 22-year-old Jesus, and is more instrumental to his current club. One of Atletico Madrid’s top talents, his $78 million release clause is an obvious route for City.

If Guardiola doesn’t see Jesus as a huge part of the club’s future, however, the manager may be able to go nearly like-for-like money-wise.

Jesus scored nearly every other game for City in all competitions, nabbing 21 goals in 47 matches, and has 13 goals in 27 caps for Brazil. Those are good numbers, especially with still-electric Sergio Aguero turning 31 this summer.

At his relatively tender age, Jesus has appeared 100 times for Man City and his 45 goals are made more impressive by less than 5600 total minutes in those matches.

Giving up on him to complete his midfield is a tough one. We think it’s more likely Guardiola pays the release clause… unless the manager simply doesn’t rate the player.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

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The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).

De Ligt reportedly chooses Barcelona; Klopp set at CB

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Liverpool, Manchester United, and pretty much everyone but Barcelona looks set to miss out on Matthijs de Ligt.

De Ligt, 19, has paired with Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk while in the Netherlands national team set-up, but reportedly is opting to join Ajax teammate Frenkie de Jong at Barcelona.

[ MORE: Brighton hires new boss ]

In the case of Liverpool, Sky Sports says that Reds boss Jurgen Klopp thinks he doesn’t need another center back.

Injuries hit Liverpool’s center backs this season outside of Van Dijk. Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren were rated highly and combined for just over 2500 minutes, while young Joe Gomez suffered a long-term injury midway through the season.

If all are healthy, Liverpool has decent depth. Yet even Gomez doesn’t have the upside to shake a stick at De Ligt if the 19-year-old was truly interested in coming to Anfield.

I mean, “Are you interested in this 19-year-old captain of a Champions League semifinalist? He’s interested in coming there” usually doesn’t yield a firm, “No.”

As for Barcelona, it will reinforce its back line a year after allowing 36 goals. That’s pretty decent, but the Blaugranas‘ third-highest total of the last decade.

Mkhitaryan assured of safety by Azerbaijan ambassador

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The Europa League Final in Azerbaijan has not been getting a lot of positive press due to fans unwillingness to travel for the event and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s fears of stepping foot in the country.

That’s because Mkhitaryan is the captain of Armenia’s national team, and that nation’s long dispute with Azerbaijan.

[ MORE: Brighton hires new boss ]

Arsenal, of course, plays Chelsea in the May 29 final, and Mkhitaryan already missed an earlier UEL match against Azerbaijan powers Qarabag. He’s played plenty for the Gunners this season apart from a broken foot, and his absence would not be welcome news for this London Derby of a European Final.

Azerbaijan’s UK ambassador Tahir Taghizadeh has guaranteed safety for Mkhitaryan, and said he’d be happy to personally offer assurances to the Armenian. On the other hand, this doesn’t sound like the most positive messaging, via Sky Sports:

“My message to Mkhitaryan would be: you’re a footballer, you want to play football? Go to Baku you are safe there, if you want to play the issue then that’s a different story. What I can guarantee is that the Azerbaijan government will do everything what needs to be done and provide safety and security for every fan, player and staff member coming to this game.”

By using the phrase “play the issue,” it does launch the discussion firmly into political waters. One thing’s for sure: The issue may be debatable, but whether a player feels safe deserves to be his call and his call alone.