Support Grows for Steubenville’s Head Football Coach Despite His Role in Rape Coverup
(Update at the bottom)
A reader of Dispatches from the Underclass who grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, has alerted me to a protest planned for Saturday, March 30, in support of Steubenville High School head football coach, Reno Saccoccia.
“This man does alot for kids, you cannot blame a coach for the actions of a few kids!”, says the event’s facebook page, launched by a woman named Jackie Sacripanti.
It appears that attendees are upset that Saccoccia could face prosecution for failing to report that two of his football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, raped a 16-year-old West Virginia girl.
Mays and Richmond were convicted earlier this month in a trial that garnered national headlines. Immediately following their guilty verdict, Attorney General Mike DeWine told reporters that the investigation wasn’t over and that those who knew about the rape but failed to report it could still face charges, including other teens, parents, school officials and coaches. Next month, a grand jury will review evidence “from dozens of interviews, including with the football program’s 27 coaches, which include junior high, freshman and volunteer coaches,” reports the Associated Press.
Evidence introduced at trial suggests that Saccoccia not only knew about the rape but laughed about it and assured the boys that he would shield them from punishment. A text message sent by Mays to an unnamed friend said, “I got Reno. He took care of it and shit ain’t gonna happen, even if they did take it to court. Like he was joking about it so I’m not worried.”
Nevertheless, Saccoccia’s many supporters have declared they will support him no matter what.
Joey Lamantia says his family “fully supports Coach Sac 120% and always will”. (I was unable to verify whether Joey is related to Bob Lamantia, one of the many Big Red football coaches at Steubenville High School.) Here is a screenshot of his comment with an equally supportive response:
Another commenter says the coach’s critics are just jealous of the high school’s successful football program:
Only one person, Daniel Hudson, pushed back. “Standing by and watching an event of horrific proportions is the same as doing it. This is a message to all of you,” he wrote repeatedly on the event’s Facebook page.
One of Saccoccia’s supporters, Anthony Forte, fired back at Hudson, calling his comment a “threat”. He encouraged others to report Hudson to Facebook.
Jackie Sacripanti, creator of the facebook page, also responded to Hudson, saying, “here is a message for you….get the hell off my page!”
It’s quite telling that none of Saccoccia’s supporters bothered to mention the rape victim or her rapists who, with Saccoccia’s guidance, believed they would get away with it. Instead, the coach is portrayed as a victim, end of story.
Online support for the beloved coach isn’t limited to Facebook. His supporters have also started a petition at Change.org, titled, “The Big Red Nation: Stand up and support Coach Reno Saccoccia.” At the time of this writing, 201 people have signed it.
According to the petition, “Coach Saccoccia has devoted the past 30 plus years of his life to Steubenville City Schools and the City of Steubenville. He has helped countless students,families and citizens of this great community. It is our turn to support him and his family.”
Again, none of Saccoccia’s supporters appear to have anything to say about the allegations against the coach, arguing instead that he is a wonderful person and therefore above the law. Meanwhile, the rape victim is completely invisible and the rapists, whose behavior Saccoccia enabled, are barely mentioned. Here is a screenshot of several comments on the Petition page:
For more on the role of Saccoccia in perpetuating rape culture, I highly reccomend you read Barry Petchesky’s article at Deadspin, titled, “Why Does Steubenville’s Football Coach Still Have His Job?“. Based on Petchesky’s breakdown of the damning evidence against the coach, it’s difficult to argue that Saccoccia is anything less than a rape culture enthusiast who values high school football far more than a teenage girl’s right to not be raped. Even worse, Petchesky points out that Saccoccia wasn’t alone.
Saccoccia wasn’t the only Steubenville coach to stand up for the players. One of his staffers told the New York Times that “the rape was just an excuse…What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that? She had to make up something.”
The lengthy New York Times exposé, credited with bringing the Steubenville rape case into the national spotlight, paints an even more disturbing picture of Saccoccia:
Saccoccia, pronounced SOCK-otch, told the principal and school superintendent that the players who posted online photographs and comments about the girl the night of the parties said they did not think they had done anything wrong. Because of that, he said, he had no basis for benching those players.
The two players who testified at a hearing in early October to determine if there was enough evidence to continue the case were eventually suspended from the team. That came eight games into the 10-game regular season.
Approached in November to be interviewed about the case, Saccoccia said he did not “do the Internet,” so he had not seen the comments and photographs posted online from that night. When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated.
“You made me mad now,” he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.
Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”
It’s hard to imagine Saccoccia’s supporters behaving the same way had he actively helped two football players get away with murder instead of rape. It’s as though rape isn’t taken seriously in Steubenville, like it’s some sort of non-crime. And that, my friends, is what we call “rape culture”.
Update: The Facebook event page for the Saturday protest appears to have been deleted after being flooded with anti-rape messages. Here is a screenshot from before it was taken down: