Does Lacrosse Cause Violence? NBC’s Today Investigates “Aggressive” Sport

Does lacrosse lead to rape? NBC’s Today show seriously investigated that question in the April 21 edition. Matt Lauer teased the story with this scintillating query:

Lauer: "And still to come, the Duke lacrosse rape case. Is there something about the sport of lacrosse that causes players to act out of bounds?"

Natalie Morales furthered this line of thinking when she introduced the segment at 7:32AM EDT:

Morales: "But first, Matt, the investigation into the alleged rape by some members of the Duke lacrosse team. It's not the first time the players there have been in trouble and it has some wondering whether this aggressive sport leads to aggressive behavior."

Now, NBC may not be aware of it, but it just might be possible that the Duke lacrosse students are innocent. Undeterred, reporter Ron Mott investigated the danger that this sport poses to the United States. An NBC graphic helpfully set the tone by labeling the students as "out of control athletes." Mott stated, "A law professor has been appointed to head a campus committee to figure out if something was wrong with the lacrosse program." James Coleman, the Duke professor in question, had this to say about the accusations:

Coleman: "The reaction in the community should have been, no chance that a Duke student did that. I don't believe that. But obviously something is wrong because people are willing to believe that it could have happened."

So it’s the seriousness of the charges that matter? Something is wrong because something could be wrong? Despite the fact that the professer isn’t a reporter or anchor, his comments are illuminating. NBC showed their bias here by having no one of reputation who disagreed with the assertion that aggressive sports "lead" to violence. In fact, the only person who disputes the theory is a Duke tennis player. And he simply denies that the players are savages. What proof does NBC provide? Well, according to Mott, lacrosse violence has "happened elsewhere."

Mott: "Several players at St. Johns University in New York were acquitted of gang rape charges in the early nineties. Five years ago, a prep school in Baltimore disbanded its team after teammates watched a porn movie starring one of the players. And now, Duke."

The B-roll video from the New York case has a graphic that labeled it as being from 1990. So, let me see if I have this right: Today’s evidence consists of lacrosse players who were acquitted of rape 16 years ago and a case from 2001? One wonders, what will happen if it turns out the Duke University students are innocent? Will NBC withdraw their theory that the sport leads to assaults? Don’t hold your breath.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org site.