An online article by Chris Francescani of the ABC News Law & Justice Unit was posted on October 31, 2006, and titled: “Sole Black Duke Lacrosse Player Says White Teammates Stereotyped.” The sole black player, Devon Sherwood, a 19 year old, and youngest member of the team, allegedly attended the “stripper party” on March 13, 2006, and stayed through to the end of the abbreviated performance by the two African American women, according to an interview that he gave to Chris Cuomo on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Mr. Sherwood stated that his three teammate Duke Lacrosse defendants had been stereotyped (by whom, he did not say) based on their class and skin color. Sherwood claimed the stereotype used against his teammates is: “Well, their daddies are gonna buy them the big-time lawyers, and they’re gonna get off.” Well, it seems as though the stereotype turned out to be quite prophetic as their daddies did get big-time attorneys (Joseph Cheshire, James Cooney III, and Wade Smith), and they did get off… even without a trial. Attorney Brad Bannon, of Joseph Cheshire’s law firm, instructed the assistant Attorney Generals James J. Coman and Mary Winstead to direct Attorney General Roy Cooper to proclaim that the Duke Lacrosse defendants were “innocent” and to say that “nothing happened.” Which is exactly what happened. They lived up to the stereotype and reinforced it. If the stereotype fits, wear it.
But it was not just the daddies of the defendants who worked feverishly to spin the Duke Lacrosse case in favor of the defendants. Groups of boosters and supporters of the Duke lacrosse team hired powerhouse attorney Bob Bennett (who represented President Bill Clinton) as part of an aggressive public relations effort to argue that a rape did not occur at the party, even before any indictments were handed down.
And although many are quick to accuse former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong of trying the case in the media (unsubstantiated gibberish), it is the attorneys for the players (prior to any indictment being handed down) who divulged to the media that DNA failed to connect any of the 47 member team to the alleged attack. Even players’ parents had started to speak out about the case, according to USAToday online article posted April 12, 2009, titled: “Clinton lawyer joins team to represent interests of Duke lacrosse players.”
The online article about the October 31, 2006 interview is but one shameful example of ABC News’s use of the “Race Card” in order to play Jedi mind-tricks on the public in order to spin the case. Beginning with the article’s headline (“Sole Black Duke Lacrosse Player Says White Teammates Stereotyped”) which infers that the white lacrosse players have been somehow victimized… regardless that the stereotypes proved to be right on. The fact that a black lacrosse player is defending the reputation, character, and integrity of his white teammates, is suppose to be convincing evidence to the African American community that the Duke lacrosse players are decent and honorable people. However, no where in the article does it mention that fifteen (nearly one third of the 47 member team) players had prior run-ins with the law (under-aged drinking, disorderly conduct, public urination, etc.), including the captain and subsequent defendant Dave Evans. The Duke lacrosse team was notorious for hosting raucous parties, and the president of the university had even warned the lacrosse coach to rein in his players’ off field shenanigans. Devon Sherwood speaks only in glowing terms of his teammates, even though there is reason to believe that racial epithets were hurled, including the “n-word.” Mr. Sherwood does not know which of his teammates made the slurs, they have not manned up and apologized to him, nor were they pointed out to him by other teammates. Still, he considers the 46 other team members to be his “brothers.” And Devon’s reaction is that the slurs used against the two black dancers was nothing more than a mistake that he is willing to forgive. I believe such a statement is made to encourage other African Americans to overlook the racist hate-speech of Devon’s white teammates, and to forgive them, as well.
Devon also states that he believed that when the three defendants came to him (advising him not to believe what he hears) that they were showing their concern for him, when in fact their actions had more to do with protecting themselves and getting Devon’s support. Had Devon been around when the dancers were leaving, maybe some of the players might have refrained from using racial slurs within his earshot. In addition, the online article by Francescani dwells on the cotton shirt insult rather than the n-word epithets, again to minimize the malevolence of the racially charged verbal attacks on the dancers. Although Devon stated in the interview, “I believe in the character of my teammates,” I am not impressed with the character of teammates who use epithets and the n-word to maliciously demean African Americans, period.
Finally, the interviewer gets Mr. Sherwood to say that he thought Mike Nifong had used race “to his advantage to get re-elected.” It is difficult to ignore the issue of race when Duke lacrosse players shout out racial slurs at two African American women. It is also evident that the players did not want African American dancers to begin with. When using false pretenses to hire the dancers, the Duke lacrosse player using an alias, specifically requested that the escort service assign white dancers. Race was not an issue that any diligent prosecutor could ignore in prosecuting the case. As for all of the hype about prosecuting the case in order to get re-elected, that is not even a realistic premise. Although the city of Durham may consist of 40% African American population, a great majority were disillusioned and not even registered to vote. The percentage of registered African American voters who did vote was most likely extremely low, as well. On the other hand, Duke University and Duke lacrosse supporters who were at odds with Mr. Nifong for not automatically dropping the charges against the three golden boys, were very motivated to see Mr. Nifong toppled in an election. I have no doubt that Mr. Nifong detractors were more motivated in their advocacy to see Nifong lose the election than individuals sympathetic to his actions in taking on the prosecution of students from on of the city’s biggest employers. The myth bandied about by the media, North Carolina State Bar, Attorney General’s Office, and other Nifong detractors is that Mr. Nifong prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse case for political gain. The reality is that by going against the powers that be on the state level and at Duke University and prosecuting the Duke players, he severely damaged his chances to win re-election. That is why the Durham district attorney primary in 2007 ended up being as close as it was. There is no doubt in my mind that had Mr. Nifong followed the dictates of the Attorney General and Duke University (by following protocol and dismissing the charges against the Duke students) that he would have won the primary contest in a landslide.
I don’t begrudge Devon Sherwood his close friendship with his teammates, and I am proud of his academic accomplishments at such a prestigious institution as Duke. What I find appalling is the way that the media (ABC’s “Good Morning America” and its online news website) had flagrantly taken advantage of Devon Sherwood in order to push its agenda of supporting the Duke Lacrosse defendants and undermining Mike Nifong and his prosecution of the case. ABC shamefully played the race card with its interview of the Duke Lacrosse’s sole black player, Devon Sherwood.