On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS October 27, 2014 #512 Up next…Justice?

After further review…For 31 years on the NFL field my responsibility was to ensure that justice was done with integrity. It was never important to me which T*E*A*M won, but that the game was played fairly and within the rules. The same principle held true on the campus in my role as teacher or principal. Justice had to be meted out fairly.

Being in the school building for more than 30 years, it was important for me to support, guide and encourage students to do the right thing. Yet, people find ways to manipulate the facts to “cover their tracks”. These behaviors are mostly learned from others, not inherited. About two years ago I read where Brian Banks finally was exonerated and walked out of the courtroom a free man with his head held high. Although elated, the false crime bothered me.  

Here’s the story: In 2002 Banks was arrested and charged with rape. Allegedly Banks, a promising high school football star, dragged a female classmate into the school stairwell and had forcible sex with her. Faced with the possibility of a 40 years-to-life sentence, Banks’ lawyer persuaded him to accept a plea deal that put him behind bars for 62 months, to be followed by five years probation. The remainder of his life would be lived as a registered sex offender and branded with an electronic monitor. Banks’ dream of playing college (the University of Southern California had offered him a scholarship), and hopefully in the NFL, was shattered.

The victim’s family sued the school district and won a $1.5 million dollar settlement. However, once released from prison Banks was “friended” on Facebook by the victim who said she made up the rape charge and admitted that what happened was consensual. (Note: As the result of Banks’ exoneration, the school district has recouped the money). But where is the justice for Banks?

The proliferation of child molestation, domestic violence and sexual assaults today is beyond anything expected in a civilized society. The damage done to the victims is tragic and lifelong. Given the nature of sexual assaults, we tend to side with the victims. Justice, however, must serve both sides.

Banks has “moved-on”. His dream of being in the NFL, in a sense, has been fulfilled, but not on the field. Banks is now employed in the football operations department of the NFL and helping in the officiating department on game days. “I am honored to say I have taken an amazing position with the NFL. God is good”, said Banks.

How will you handle an injustice that may come your way?

To contact Jim go to www.jimtunney.com or email jim@jimtunney.com.

Jim’s book “101 Best of TunneySide of Sports” has stories of dealing with difficult situations.

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