Amy Donaldson: Details of ‘toxic’ Maryland football culture remind us that abuse is often tolerated in sports


I had two basketball coaches in high school.

One guy profoundly influenced the person I became, while the other guy became someone I tried to forget.

I started thinking about the coaches I’ve had and their influence on me after reading the heartbreaking details of how a toxic coaching culture led to the death of a young football player, Jordan McNair, last May. The 19-year-old offensive lineman died at a Maryland hospital two weeks after collapsing during a sprint workout on May 29. When he died of heat stroke, his body temperature was 106 degrees, according to an ESPN article detailing the problems at the football program.

The ESPN article details a program where there is a “coaching environment based on fear and intimidation.” It interviews a number of athletes about having their masculinity mocked, belittling them for passing out during a drill, forcing players to eat until they puked, and slapping the food out of a player’s hands during a team meeting.

When ESPN asked to interview the coaches in question, they were told they’d been placed on leave while an investigation into the allegations took place — something that didn’t happen until nearly two months after McNair’s death.

This is not a football issue.

It’s a sports issue.

There were reports of this kind of abuse in the University of Utah’s swim program led by former head coach Greg Winslow for six years, and I’ve talked with dozens of parents over the years whose children have endured verbal and emotional abuse at the high school level.

I’d like to say organizations know how to deal with physical and sexual abuse, but Michigan State and Penn State proved that’s not true. Still, it seems those situations have become slightly more clear — and intolerable — while verbal and emotional abuse remains this gray area that those …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

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