Black athletes, race and rape

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    brian banksSurely we have come a long way in America, but we still have a long way to go.

    Before I start my discourse, I have to proclaim that as a father of a daughter I truly understand that rape is a heinous crime. 

    But rape in America has always been one sided in convicting. One only has to look at all the “yellow” people in America and it is quite evident about our history.

    There have been too many Black males convicted of rape in this county to recount that were innocent. Surely there are rape crimes by both Black and White males. 

    However, Black males have been victims of injustice. Even in recent years there have been a number of Black males exonerated  because of their DNA.

    Recently, yet another has had a chance at another life after a wrongful imprisonment. 

    This was brought further home to me because I knew about this young man, Brian Banks, while living in Los Angeles and I had family telling me about his fine athletic skills and upbringing.

    So when I saw that he had finally been released from jail, I was elated for his family and the young man.

    Banks’ ordeal began in 2002, when he was 17 years old and a student at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. He was accused by a classmate, 14-year-old Wanetta Gibson, of rape. She is an African-American female.

    Now, after fighting Jim Crow and exclusion, we have our own race victimizing our Black males by falsely accusing them of rape. What does that tell us? Money has become that God of too many; they can sacrifice another’s life for riches, and in almost every case, if the accuser is Black the courts will rule against them.

    This time it was a young sister and her family that saw the chance to get paid – if an accused is Black and an athlete there is money to be gotten.

    In 2003, a judge sentenced 17-year-old Banks to six years in prison and ordered him to pay $200,000 in restitution. The judge also ordered Banks to register as a sex offender. He served five years in prison and five years on parole.

    As Banks faced criminal charges, Gibson’s mother, Wanda Rhodes, sued the Long Beach Unified School District for several million dollars, alleging that the school, Long Beach Polytechnic, where the false accusation of rape and kidnapping began to take shape, was unsafe. 

    The City of Long Beach settled the lawsuit for $1.5 million. Half of the funds went into the pockets of Gibson’s attorneys and the balance went to her.

    Do they have to give it back? No! Maybe there needs to be a consequence to arrest this growing trend of picking off young brothers that have athletic potential.

    I remember Banks’ family talking about their kin getting ready to attend the University of Southern California on a football scholarship, but instead, he spent five years in prison for a 2002 rape and kidnapping he  was not guilty of. 

    A judge recently exonerated him after his accuser admitted she made up the entire incident because she did not want her mother to know she was sexually active.

    The false charges were the first of a series of disastrous things that happened to Banks, now 26. The Long Beach Police have been accused of botching the investigation in the favor of the allegations of the supposed victim. Was it sloppy investigation or just another African-American stuck in the flawed justice system?

    The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department examined slides obtained from a genital swab, a vaginal swab and a rectal swab for the presence of semen and did not find any from a male.

    Despite the weak evidence, police arrested Banks, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney charged him with two counts of forcible rape, one count of sodomy and one count of kidnapping. Prosecutors charged Banks with kidnapping because Gibson said Banks pulled her inside a school elevator.

    Banks’ original attorney warned him that his being a Black male would work against him in court. The lawyer told him to plead no contest to the charges. The attorney told him that being a “big Black jock,” a jury would never believe him when Gibson, then 14, took the witness stand.

    Bad advice!  But it speaks volumes on the plight of any Black male athlete accused of rape. Gibson has since gone on record explaining that she lied.

    Leland Stein can be reached at“> and twitter @lelstein3.


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