Is the lawsuit against Jim Boeheim and Syracuse University about the money or is it about justice? Unfortunately, it may not matter because the lawsuit could very well be a setback for victims’ rights.
To be sure, the two victims/Plaintiffs have told us that the lawsuit is not about the money. But, admit it, whenever you hear the words “it is not about the money,” the first thing that comes to mind is that “it must be about the money.” When it is a free agent taking 5% more to move across the country, it is always accompanied by a statement that it is not about the money. Instead, it is often portrayed as a “respect” issue. Of course, the disrespect arose out of a lack of offered money or the timing of the offer. If you have to say it is not about the money, people hearing that tend to think it is because it absolutely is about the money.
The Bernie Fine matter is not about free agency. Instead, this lawsuit is based on Boeheim calling the accusers “liars” and stating that they were doing this for the money. Surely, the irony in someone filing a civil lawsuit for monetary damages was lost on nobody, including the Confidential. But if that irony is not enough, note that the two accusers/Plaintiffs claim that this lawsuit is about justice for other victims. Mike Lang’s statement was as follows:
“Coming forward was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life, and I hope by doing this, I can help other victims have the courage to also come forward — not just in this case, but in any case in which they have been abused,” Lang said.
Stop and think about that for a moment. It’s not about the money, it is about justice and encouraging other victims to come forward.
The problem is that, from a justice standpoint, Bernie Fine has already been fired. Jim Boeheim was taken to task by the media for his non-sympathetic comments and ultimately had to apologize. In apologizing, Boeheim actually cleared the way for other victims to come forward in this and all cases. Boeheim and his wife are even going to focus on supporting victims. By all accounts–short of Bernie Fine being convicted–these two accusers/Plaintiffs have already been quite vindicated. Quite a step forward for both of them and other victims’ rights.
Until yesterday. In filing the lawsuit, the two accusers/Plaintiffs demonstrated that justice will not be served unless they get more publicity and cash damages in their pocket. Again, like everyone else who professes that it is not about the money, the knee-jerk reaction is skepticism. If Fine was still suspended, it would be understandable that they would need to press forward. If Boeheim had not been criticized in the media or had not provided the sincere apologies, it would be understandable that they would need to press forward. But Fine was fired. Boeheim apologized. The Onondaga County District Attorney called the two accusers/Plaintiffs credible just a few days earlier. If there was ever a point for these two accusers/Plaintiffs to feel that Syracuse and the nation supported them, it was the point of time that existed on Monday, December 12, 2011.
Despite all of that, Tuesday, December 13, 2011, brought a lawsuit. Not a lawsuit against Fine–the perpetrator of the crimes. This is not the Goldmans suing OJ Simpson because the criminal proceedings failed to establish his guilt. This is not even the situation with third accuser Zach Tomaselli, who is suing Fine and only Fine. Instead, the two plaintiffs/accusers went after Jim Boeheim and Syracuse University. The deeper pockets.
Most importantly–let’s go back to the purported basis for the lawsuits–protecting other victims. What happens if another victim comes forward on Friday? Now that the two accusers have become Plaintiffs, will the consensus be that this new victim is merely hopping on the litigation bandwagon? After all, this victim did not come forward until after the lawsuit was filed. If there is a new round of abuse in some other area of the country–those communities will have to grapple with the question of whether it is real or just a fabricated money grab. Will future alleged victims be criticized for not filing a lawsuit? Will the failure to hire a Gloria Allred be seen as “proof” that these victims are not willing to have their theories tested in a court of law? Will the rest of the nation determine that it is a minor scandal because the court system is not involved? Will future victims reach a determination that coming forward only leads to litigation one way or another–a risk that ends up leading to more victims choosing to silently suffer? The answers to these questions may very well end up being adverse to victims.
If the accusers/Plaintiffs REALLY wanted to help victims, they had every opportunity to do so without pursuing litigation. A combined effort by Lang, Davis, the Boeheims, Syracuse law enforcement, and Syracuse University could have made a real difference in changing the culture. A coalition like that would have changed the community and could have helped change things nationally. However, that utopia was no match for the allure of publicity and cash. So, instead of taking three steps forward, this issue will have taken two steps forward and then one step backward. The two accusers/Plaintiffs have decided to leave it to other victims to victims to take it to the next level. So much for helping other victims. That is not merely irony, but disappointing.
What do you think? Is this lawsuit really going to help other victims everywhere?