"Obviously, it wasn't for any purpose of covering up or anything like that," Thurman said. "It was showing support, which was a nice thing to do."
Two days ago, the internet was abuzz with the news that James Franklin had contacted the alleged victim in the Vanderbilt rape case, the young woman his players at the time were accused of violating. Never mind that the revelation arose in a court filing for the defendants, or that the Nashville DA had long since cleared Franklin of any wrongdoing, or that the report was so vague as to be meaningless and, to the extent you could take anything out of it, was really just another positive affirmation of Franklin's character--that he's the kind of person who would reach out to a student going through a tough time and offer his support, that he would check up on her, and tell her that he cares.
Nope, nobody outside of Happy Valley could possibly read that report any other way than as to impute his liability in covering up the rape, and then, the chorus began: Oh god, Penn State, really? Another coach who puts football ahead of people's well-being? What were we thinking? How could we have hired him? Haven't we learned?
We--Penn State fans able to think this through and rationalize and understand, with a basic level of high-school civics in how the legal system works, or who've seen an episode of Law & Order (not to mention those of us with law degrees)--could have told you this wasn't a smoking gun. It wasn't new, it wasn't incriminating, it wasn't even the slightest bit troubling. And today, we now know all of these things as fact. But the wink-nudge "we're not saying, we're just saying" stories aren't coming down.
The hours of talk radio bloviation aren't getting wiped from the memories of the listeners. The tweets and message board comments and sheer hurr-durr-iness emanating from all corners of the internet aren't going anywhere. And so it's our time to come to a decision: Get thicker skin, or fight back. Because no matter how innocent James Franklin is, and no matter how great he's going to be for this program, for this university, those idiots are never going to shut the fuck up about allegations of impropriety that, for the eight thousandth time, originated in a goddamn Buzzfeed article.
Well, now that I've buried the lede enough, we can talk about the news, the product of actual reporting, done by actual journalists, not the ironically-genred "thinkpieces" from windbag columnists who want nothing more than to keeping battering the old Penn State punching bag: James Franklin is an upstanding citizen and a great human being.
Did he contact the alleged rape victim in the days after the attack? Sure did. To cover it up? Take it away, Nashville Assistant District Attorney Tom Thurman: "I think he and his wife called and said they were praying for her and thinking about her." Offering his thoughts and prayers for a student he knew who was going through a tough time? WHAT AN ASSHOLE. FIRE THIS MAN IMMEDIATELY. Hell, the prosecutor seems, if nothing else, absolutely sympathetic to Franklin, frustrated that his name is being dragged through the mud. "It was probably a pretty nice thing to do," Thurman said, "and it gets thrown up like this."
And not only does Thurman defend our coach from allegations of impropriety surrounding the rape case, repeatedly and steadfastly denying that he took part in a cover-up, he even comes to Franklin's defense on the vaguely-sourced suggestion that he'd violated some NCAA bylaws by asking pretty girls to help with recruiting. The point is this: If there was any lingering doubt, in some corners of this fanbase, that the other shoe is still yet to drop, that there's still too much we don't know about James Franklin, that one day hiring the unequivocally best candidate on the coaching market could come back to bite us, it should be gone, now. As more and more evidence comes out, there's only more and more assurance that he did the right thing, that he's about as good a man as he is a recruiter.
Yesterday, James Franklin released a statement. He said, "The allegations that I did something wrong are simply not true. I have cooperated fully with the authorities in this matter but, out of respect for the legal process, I am not able to comment any further." It was short, but reaffirmed us all we needed to know; not that there were any tangible allegations arising from that filing. Either way, it's time that we all stand in line behind him.
Again: That doesn't mean the character attacks, thinly veiled though they might be, taking the form of "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" rhetorical questions or concern trolling, are going to stop anytime soon. Nobody's going to apologize when all is said and done, not to us and not to James Franklin. We should have known that all along--as I wrote a few months ago, the world, especially the world of sportswriters, is far too lazy to search for subtlety, or to give one of their most common targets anything resembling a benefit of the doubt. It won't even stop the grasping-at-straws connect-the-dots news reports that will spin anything, to the extent it can be spun, to make James Franklin look like the bad guy.
But as the facts continue to mount in the opposite direction, as the prosecutors continue to assert his guiltlessness, as everyone exercising one modicum of brainpower to assessing James Franklin's culpability--moral or legal--comes to the exact same conclusion, I'll once again offer any and all hacks standing against him a challenge: Either cut it out, or be prepared to be exposed for the desperate charlatans you are.