The Sacrificial Sex Fiend
Nearly a year ago a juvenile court in Plainfield, New Jersey found Reggie Dixon guilty of aggravated sexual assault against his teenage steps-sister. Because of the statutory nature of the crime, the prosecution’s failure to disprove consent beyond a shadow of a doubt was irrelevant. Dixon’s punishment: psychological treatment, fines and penalties and mandatory sex offender registration.
Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano knew all of this when he signed Dixon on March 31st. Plainfield, Dixon’s hometown, is about as populated as Rutgers’ New Brunswick-Piscataway campus, and is only a fifteen minute drive away. What Coach Schiano knew better, though, was how close Rutgers came to joining the elite BCS Bowl clique this past winter, how high the expectations are going into this year, and, most importantly Dixon’s 40-yard dash time: 4.35.
There isn’t any question that Schiano is a decent man. His players went to war for him last fall. When the dust settled and he’d won his share of coaching honors, Schiano opted to sign on with Rutgers long term when he could’ve easily departed for the greener pastures of a more established program no questions asked. Even still, this Reggie Dixon business simply has to be addressed. It can not, as the mainstream press would prefer it, be swept under the rug. Not a single story published on the internet or reported by ESPN has even suggested the obvious: Reggie Dixon’s life will be forever linked to Don Imus. He is, I’m afraid, the first unofficial casualty of the latest backlash against misogyny in sports and entertainment (i.e. Hip-Hop).
Dixon’s signing date shouldn’t be taken lightly. Just one day before Rutgers beat LSU to advance to the Women’s National Championship game, Rutgers announced Dixon’s imminent arrival on campus. Schiano had this say on the occasion: “We are very pleased that Reggie decided that Rutgers is where he wants to play college football and go to school.”
Then, five days later, Imus made his now infamous remarks.
What’s apparent is that while Schiano was willing to take whatever heat came his way for signing Dixon on March 31st, by April 16th the fumes in the kitchen had smoked him out. We, of course, know that in the interim Rutgers moved into the national limelight. The school held internationally televised press conferences. It became the lead the story on practically every major news program. And in that time as much as race emerged as the early head-spinner, sex and sexism steadily closed the gap thanks to the ever-reliable discourse about misogyny in rap lyrics.
By signing Dixon, Schiano chose to ignore Dixon’s step-mother’s warnings. In doing so, he was not only protecting the interests of the program, but giving a young man an opportunity to move forward with his life— an admirable deed on the coach’s behalf. But once Imus got canned and Rutgers University began being hailed as a beacon of gender egalitarianism, Dixon had to go. ESPN, after gaining access to court documents, clearly played a defining role in Dixon’s demise. Although Joe Schad’s article suggests the university released Dixon “shortly after ESPN raised questions about the player’s criminal record,” the actual report was not aired until Rutgers had officially distanced itself from the Plainfield star via Schiano’s lame-duck remarks designed to salvage the school’s integrity by insisting “more details [had] recently emerged” in the matter.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not buying the school’s stated purpose, not when it already knew about the conviction and had literally eight months to investigate the details prior to signing Dixon.
The problem here isn’t so much with dropping the kid, it’s that Rutgers and Schiano get to retreat into the innocent victim role without taking any responsibility. A similar criticism was levied against C. Vivian Stringer last week when, according to some, she played the innocent victim card to the hilt with her over-the-top, holier than though remarks regarding Imus. This time around Rutgers and Schiano get off appearing as though they had been somehow duped when it is highly improbable that the program couldn’t have and didn’t do its on investigation into the trial and conviction before signing him. Instead, what they responded to was the pressure – albeit legitimate – to not appear hypocritical. After all, how could a school stand in solidarity with its women athletes against the scourge of sexism one week and welcome a juvenile sex-offender onto its campus the next? Doing so would have spoiled its newly minted progressive status by dousing its P.R.‘heat’ with an unwelcome splash of cold water.
From a P.R. perspective, Dixon had to be sacrificed. But for a kid who two weeks ago said he felt like a “family member” every time he visited the school, it is a cruel slap in the face, especially when his almost-coach had the audacity to say “it is in the best interest of all parties involved for Rutgers to release Reggie Dixon from his national letter of intent.” That’s just not true. Reggie Dixon is now damaged goods. Wherever he goes — and it’ll be interesting to find out who takes a chance on him now that he’s been publically outed — he’ll be known not just as the ex-sex offender but the ex-sex offender who had his scholarship revoked.
A final note that relates to D-Wil’s incisive post yesterday on the use of certain benign terms to convolute messages: nearly every article online about the Dixon incident frames it as a “release” or a “withdrawal” or, as was the case with AOL’s version, a “recruiting correction.” The term “release” strikes up images of Dixon wanting out of the scholarship, which is untrue. “Withdrawal” is equally benign in the sense that it sanitizes the act in the same way a “W” supposedly sterilizes a student’s GPA. “Recruiting correction” might be the worst of all, for it suggests Rutgers merely made a mistake when it signed Dixon, something it clearly didn’t think was the case on March 31st.