Local News

Durham Mayor Wants to Honor Duke Lacrosse Team

Posted May 22, 2007

— Durham Mayor Bill Bell says he recently contacted Duke University about a proposed ceremony to recognize the school's men's lacrosse team.

But he insists it's only for the team's play on the field and for no other reason.

"No matter what you do, people are always going to be suspect to a certain amount and wonder what your ulterior motive is," Bell said. "But I can tell you there is no ulterior motive."

The top-seeded and fourth-ranked Blue Devils play Cornell Saturday in the NCAA semi-finals. The national championship game is Monday.

Bell says no date has been set to recognize the team and that the city will honor it even if it doesn't take home the national title.

But a year ago, the team wasn't being celebrated for its season. Instead, it was embroiled in controversy. Duke President Richard Brodhead canceled the highly ranked team's season amid allegations from exotic dancer Crystal Mangum that three players raped and sexually assaulted her at a team party.

A grand jury indicted co-captain David Evans and two other players -- sophomores Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty -- in connection with the case.

Longtime lacrosse coach Mike Pressler resigned.

And the lacrosse team, itself, faced a tumultuous year in which it made headlines for the wrong reasons.

The team was put under a microscope by the university -- which studied the team's culture. Players faced criticism from Duke faculty, staff and students.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong publicly referred to the athletes as a "bunch of hooligans" and threatened to bring charges against them for not cooperating with the investigation.

And many in the community considered the players the "bad boys of college athletics."

"They didn't ask for any labels, and they're not asking for any now," Duke Coach John Danoski said Tuesday, admitting he was surprised by Bell's gesture.

"I think it just says people have moved on. I think everyone got tired of the story a while back," he said. "You know, life goes so quickly, so for people to forgive or move on, or to admit that these guys were misrepresented or misjudged is a very powerful statement and a very strong statement for someone to make."

But Bell points out the proposed recognition ceremony is not an attempt to mend fences or build bridges but said the city always tries to honor student athletes from local universities.

"The fact is they won the ACC championship. They're in the Final Four," Bell said. "That's quite an accomplishment."


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  • Derrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr May 24, 2007

    Wow, 50+ comments and it seems like everyone agrees. That must be a record on this site. I agree as well. He hasn't honored any other teams, so why honor this one? BS

  • coreymansfield May 24, 2007

    RE: "Really? Name one other that disgraced their school in this way. This team does not deserve to be honored."

    How have these young men disgraced the school? when charges against them were unwarranted and proved false.
    Not only have they stood up to their community's and peer's harsh criticisms, they did it with dignity and have come out of this a stronger team.

    Do I feel they should be honored by the Mayor? No, but an appology would be nice.

  • bike candy May 23, 2007

    angunc~ "honor those rich thugs for what?"~ of all the comments made on this topic, yours hit a nerve with me. What is your problem, the players or the mayor? The players who were were guilty before a trial and is innocent or the mayor who wants reelection? I see a trend here. Simple ignorance.

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy May 23, 2007

    let's see....how about this response....

    "Thanks, but no-thanks!!!"

  • MSN93 May 23, 2007


    RE:"Teams that throw drinking parties for underage members and hire strippers for such parties do not deserve to be recognized or celebrated in any way."...ummmm...errrrr.....that pretty much wipes out all the college teams in the nation.

    Really? Name one other that disgraced their school in this way. This team does not deserve to be honored.

  • 0 Tolerance aka Ms.Turner May 23, 2007

    OK putting the rape case aside, why would the mayor hold a ceremony honoring the lacrosse team. Other people have brought up good points that other colleges and teams have received many championships and he hasn't honored them. If the mayor wanted to apologize for public humiliation or the scrootney(?)the team endured then say so. But don't try and do the ole grin and pat on the back in the public eye to make yourself look good. That really ticks me off!

  • White Eagle May 23, 2007

    If this comes to pass I hope that the Duke lacrosse team respectfully declines the invitation regardless if the university accepts. The city administrators, Duke administration and a number of it professors have done enough to "support" the lacrosse team members.

  • talkabout May 23, 2007

    wow....can someone say election time??!

  • CherryDarling May 23, 2007

    "...he insists it's only for the team's play on the field and for no other reason."

    Yeah right.

  • feyerdncr May 23, 2007

    No ulterior motive, huh? Gee will he be honoring the golf team, the field hockey team, or the swim team when they have good seasons? Call a spade a spade and don't try to make it a diamond.