The Chris Beard arrest rocked the sports world on Monday, and as the day went on, it became clear that everyone — from the UT administration to the media — could do better.
We shouldn’t have to do this anymore.
Though we’ve made so much progress in how we handle allegations of domestic violence and sexual misconduct, sometimes we need to be reminded of how far we still have to go.
The world got a reminder on Monday when men’s basketball coach Chris Beard was arrested on domestic violence charges. If you are not familiar with exactly what Beard’s fiancée is alleging, see the tweet below.
Please note that the content is extremely graphic and may be disturbing to some readers.
The University of Texas has every right to do its due diligence, but the only reasonable conclusion it can come to is that Chris Beard can never coach another game for the Longhorns.
Sadly, I’m not convinced that the university will see it that way. Texas has already failed in this department before — freshman Arterio Morris was arrested in June on misdemeanor assault charges following an altercation with his ex-girlfriend. As the legal process plays out, Morris remains eligible and active for Texas. He played 10 minutes in the Longhorns’ game Monday night and is due in court on Wednesday. This, despite the victim sharing in vivid detail exactly what happened.
Again, the contents of the below tweet may be disturbing.
Chris Beard Arrest Timeline
The university didn’t do much to inspire confidence on Monday, either, taking a shockingly long time to announce Beard’s suspension as the team prepared for its game that night against Rice.
So we’re all on the same page, here are the facts about what happened on Monday:
12:15 a.m. CT: Police respond to a 9-1-1 call reporting a disturbance at Beard’s residence
4:18 a.m.: Beard is booked on a felony third-degree assault charge
8:17 a.m.: The Athletic’s the Chris Beard arrest
8:26 a.m.: KXAN news reporter that the charge is “of felony family violence by strangulation”
8:44 a.m.: O’Neil tweets from the University of Texas: “The University is aware of the situation regarding Chris Beard. We are continuing to gather information and monitoring the legal process.”
2:50 p.m.: Beard is released from jail on $10,000 bond. Texas’s game against Rice is four hours away and the university has not yet announced who will coach.
4:46 p.m.: Ryan Autullo of The Statesman tweets details from Beard’s arrest affidavit. The university still has not announced any disciplinary action or who will coach the night’s game.
5:30 p.m.: Gates to the Moody Center open for Texas students. The University remains silent on Beard’s status.
5:36 p.m.: Texas announces it has suspended Beard indefinitely and without pay. Associate head coach Rodney Terry will act as head coach in the meantime.
7:00 p.m.: Texas’s game against Rice tips off.
The Danger of Both Sides
If you’re going to give the university credit, it did ultimately arrive at an acceptable action regarding Beard. Why it took so long, and how someone like Morris is still facing no disciplinary action from the team whatsoever is more concerning, and both stem from the same inclination to give the accused the benefit of the doubt over the accuser.
To be perfectly clear: Beard and Morris are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. They are entitled to their day in court and have every right to present a rigorous defense.
But the victims are entitled to the dignity of being taken seriously. And so far, too many have failed them. The Texas administration has failed Morris’s ex-girlfriend by allowing Morris to play while the legal process unfolds. The presumption of innocence doesn’t need to extend to the basketball court when the accuser comes forward with details like she did. It remains unclear if they will similarly fail Beard’s fiancée, but many in the media have started to do the job for them.
Not maliciously, and almost certainly not purposely, but it’s happened.
I’m not interested in sic’ing the internet on writers who have erred despite operating in good faith, but too many are using language like “if this is true,” “if she really did have bite marks,” Texas needs to get a “clearer picture” of what happened.
It’s unintentionally casting doubt on credible accusations by allowing for the possibility that the victim is lying. They are not. There’s a natural inclination for journalists to “both-sides” every situation, but sometimes there aren’t two sides. Even in the most forgiving light possible, Beard’s fiancée still ended up physically injured at Beard’s hands. She still made that 9-1-1 call, saying she did not feel safe. There’s no both-sidesing that. There’s no need to qualify those sentences with “if.”
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And it’s more than just the language we use in our stories. Unfortunately, the rules of access journalism demand reporters build strong relationships with head and assistant coaches. They provide the day-to-day scoops on injuries, recruiting, scheduling, and more, long before the SID issues a release. Those relationships create a natural conflict and make it more difficult to report on something damning when it happens — and yes, I’m aware that I’m guilty of this as well.
Throughout the season, Beard has said that he cannot speak on the Morris situation. As coach, however, he can speak about why Morris is or is not playing. But beat writers can’t push Beard on that without fear of losing their access to him or the team. It’s not how journalism is supposed to work, but it is reality. That Morris is allowed to play at all, that the Texas staff is not pushed on this every day, and that Morris has seemingly evaded all punishment to this point is a failing on all involved. The media, the university, the athletic department, the coaches. Everyone.
We’ve been down this road before. News of a domestic violence arrest breaks, then shocking details about the situation trickle out, then even more disturbing photos emerge. At some point, if we are lucky, the accused faces real consequences.
Texas didn’t need the lurid details to know it was right to suspend him, but it did not announce the suspension until after they came out. It’s possible the university doesn’t feel firing him right now is a legally sound decision, but us outside of Austin do not need anything else to decide that Beard should be done at Texas. The “if true” era in this case ended as soon as the police confirmed the arrest and charges against him. There it is. It happened.
Not that it matters in comparison, but the program will recover. Texas just opened the brand-new Moody Center — one of the best on-campus arenas in the country — and is about to move to the SEC and make more money than we can fathom. It can get another great coach. It can pull in more great recruits.
Life will eventually move on in Austin, but for now, Texas has two people accused of domestic violence in its program. They need to be properly held accountable and so does everyone who stands in the way.
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