In order to fully understand the sordid situation that is Michigan State University and its football coach, Mel Tucker, who on Sunday was suspended without pay as an investigation continues into his conduct, you need to understand the other person in this story. Her name is Brenda Tracy. What you need to know is that she’s a hero, and if you don’t believe her, you are a fool.
Tracy began publicly telling her story in 2014, that she was raped by four men: two Oregon State University football players, a junior college player, and a high school recruit, in the late 1990s. Tracy turned that tragedy into activism. She eventually started a nonprofit called Set The Expectation, which seeks to stop sexual violence, and she works mostly with men. Her website says she’s spoken on over 100 college campuses and to thousands of players. This has been her life’s work. It’s been steady and important and life changing for a lot of people.
Her goal, she once told me years ago, was not to lecture people, but instead have a conversation. She always wanted to show empathy and compassion and did so even when, in that horrible moment, she was shown none.
Also, and this cannot be emphasized enough, when she agreed to speak to the Michigan State football program, they were lucky to have her talk to the players and coaches there, not the other way around.
This is who Brenda Tracy is.
Who is Mel Tucker?
If what Tracy says is true, and it’s difficult to believe it’s not, he acted as a predator against someone he knew had been sexually assaulted. Tracy’s complaint says that on a phone call with Tucker, he made sexual comments about her and masturbated.
“The idea that someone could know me and say they understand my trauma but then re-inflict that trauma on me is so disgusting to me, it’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” she told USA TODAY in it’s Sept. 10 story. “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”
There will be fanboys and goons and the people who always say women are lying who will attack Tracy from their social media account with the handle realman22245332.
But if you don’t believe Tracy, you are a fool. That’s the bottom line.
This is the other part of the story that you need to understand. Tracy didn’t want to report this. She doesn’t want to be the story. Tucker is the problem, not Tracy.
The allegations against Tucker are problematic on numerous fronts, but the main one is the potential abuse of power. People are flawed and make mistakes, but if true this would be a remarkable breach of not just protocol but human decency. It would also show a lack of understanding of how the trauma of sexual assault works.
Also, if you’re trying to decipher who is telling the truth, the person with the clear discrepancies in their story isn’t Tracy.
As the USA TODAY story points out, Tucker maintained the phone call in question was made from his home in Michigan, not a hotel in Florida. Records show, however, that Tucker was in Florida at the time of the call.
There’s another issue that is particularly disturbing. Tucker said an associate informed him that Paula Lavigne, an investigative reporter for ESPN, was investigating if Tracy’s story about being raped was actually true. Lavigne said no such investigation had occurred or was going to.
“Neither (Tracy’s) organization nor Tracy is or has been the target of any investigative reporting,” Lavigne said in a statement to USA TODAY. “I’m perplexed that Mel Tucker would respond to a complaint of sexual harassment by involving me or ESPN.”
This smacks of attempting to discredit Tracy knowing that the story would eventually become public.
This story will be another one where people will look at the same set of facts and see distinctly different things. Opinions will fly. Facts, to some, won’t matter. The bottom line remains the same.
If you don’t believe Brenda Tracy, you are a fool.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michigan State coach Mel Tucker isn’t believable. Brenda Tracy is.