This post has been updated
The torrent of ugly news coming out of Knoxville continued Wednesday. In a sworn affadavit, former Tennessee wide receiver Drae Bowles claimed that head coach Butch Jones told the player he “betrayed the team” by helping a woman who said she was raped by two of Bowles’s teammates.
According to Bowles, who transferred to Chattanooga shortly after the November 2014 incident occurred, Jones subsequently called the player back and apologized for calling him “a traitor to the team.” The news of Bowles’s testimony, contained in a new legal filing as part of a federal lawsuit against Tennessee, was first reported by The Tennessean.
The entire Volunteers athletic department, but particularly the football program, is under fire for enabling a “hostile sexual environment.” Eight female Tennessee students, including seven alleged sexual assault victims, recently sued the school for causing Title IX and other violations by repeatedly showing “deliberate indifference” toward sexual assaults committed by student-athletes.
Five Vols athletes are singled out in the lawsuit: former basketball player Yemi Makanjuola, former football players A.J. Johnson, Michael Williams and Riyahd Jones, plus a current football player identified as a “John Doe.” The sequence involving Bowles concerned a women who said she was sexually assaulted by Johnson and Williams.
As portrayed in the lawsuit, Bowles found the woman, a friend of his, crying in a parking lot in the early hours of Nov. 16, 2014, and helped her call 911 and get an ambulance. That resulted in the wide receiver himself getting physically assaulted and harassed by some of his teammates, in particular linebacker Curt Maggitt, who, a court filing claims, struck Bowles in his face.
After Bowles told the linebacker what he had done, according to the filing, “Maggitt became violently upset, said that Bowles was trying to f— up A.J. and suddenly punched Bowles in the mouth with great force, causing Bowles’ lip to bleed.”
Two other then-teammates, defensive back Geraldo Orta and running back Marlin Lane, confronted Bowles the next day at a campus dining hall, and the pair had to be restrained by a team strength coach. From The Tennessean:
Orta later told police that where he came from, “people got shot” for such betrayals, according to the lawsuit. Williams also told police Orta put a “hit” out on Bowles for his role in helping the alleged victim, according to the lawsuit, which cited a Knoxville Police Department Incident Report. …
In a Facebook message with The Tennessean on February 10, Orta denied putting a “hit” out on Bowles. …
According to the lawsuit, Maggitt admitted to police that he assaulted Bowles. He was never charged with a crime. Orta told police that Jones “instructed the team to stay away from Bowles,” who was given time away from the program, the lawsuit says.
In his affadvit, Bowles said that he “broke down and cried” after Jones told him he had “betrayed” the team. On Tuesday, during an unusual press conference featuring all 16 of Tennessee’s head coaches, Jones said, “I don’t want you to think in any way, shape or form that we don’t feel for the alleged victims. … We all hurt for them. I want to make sure people understand that. That hits at our soul.”
Jones also noted that the lawsuit could impair his ability to land top-notch recruits, saying, “Our competitors are using it against us.” The lawsuit has also brought renewed scrutiny to a 1996 incident in which a former athletic trainer said she was sexually assaulted by Vols quarterback Peyton Manning.
Update: Jones released this statement Wednesday evening:
“The assertion that I ever attempted to belittle or demean a young man for taking action to help another person is absolutely false. To the contrary, I did all I could to assist the former student in question. During the course of the judicial process, campus officials, as well as the young man’s own words, will clearly establish that I have done nothing wrong. I will fight all of these false attacks on my character, and I know that once this process has been completed, my reputation will be affirmed.”