A couple of months ago, my friends and I were sitting around and talking, having a normal conversation, when the topic shifted to college football.
I asked, “What ever happened to that really jacked dude from Baylor a few years ago?”
“Yeah! He was a meme for being insanely massive, had to have gone to the league.”
“Nope. Rape. Haven’t heard of him since.”
Shawn Oakman was back in the news this weekend, and the story is really heartbreaking. The former Baylor defensive end was eligible to turn professional around three years ago, around the same time he was indicted for raping and sexually assaulting a female Baylor student.
Just recently, he was released from prison after further investigations found out that there was a lack of physical evidence, and Oakman was pronounced not guilty- three years after the fact and, sadly, too late for him to start a professional football career.
I know this is a sports article, but I’m going to tie in a little bit of politics too, because why not? We won’t shut up and dribble, right?
Oakman’s life, and what it could have been, is gone. Why? Two reasons:
It’s not Oakman’s fault he wasn’t paid- but paying NCAA players is a policy that, through my experience, most people support- especially for circumstances like this. Take Zion Williamson for example- if he were to tear his ACL when he ripped through his sneaker and ruined his career, he would finish playing basketball with $0.00 made from it.
Oakman was likely a first round pick, and was one of Baylor’s best players. However, during his time at school, Baylor came under fire for covering up sexual assault crimes committed by their football players. Head Coach Art Briles was released as a result, the athletic director resigned, and the President of the University was demoted and later resigned. Is it possible Oakman was used as an example at the time?
Whatever the truth is, my heart goes out for Oakman. I believe I speak for several people when I wish for punishments for the accuser, a female student with whom Oakman had sexual relations with prior to the event. At the heart of an investigation, due process was rushed and Oakman was wrongfully sidelined from his entire NFL career, and his accuser is still at-large.
It’s a touchy subject- sexual assault is a common crime, especially on college campuses. The hate being thrown at his accuser, while she did lie, just frightens actual victims from telling their stories. In a world where people are coming public with their experiences more and more often, where even the A-list celebrities and athletes are shown they are not above the law- this is the WORST thing that could have happened. The false accusation only discredits real victims stories.
At the end of the day, Oakman may never get his shot at pro football- he’s already missed three years of his prime. However, several sexual assault victims also may never come forward following this dilemma. Yes, the law got it right and Oakman is free- the way he should have been for three years. But in reality, the situation is a lose-lose all around.
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