Multiple Vanderbilt football players accused of sexual misconduct

Several Vanderbilt students took to Twitter starting on June 20 to accuse multiple members of Vanderbilt’s football team of sexual misconduct.

Vanderbilt+field.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FPhotographer+Unknown%29

Brent Szklaruk

Vanderbilt field. (Hustler Multimedia/Photographer Unknown)

Simon Gibbs, Sports Editor

Editor’s Note: This report contains graphic language detailing alleged sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and rape.

The Hustler is aware of at least eight allegations of sexual misconduct against Vanderbilt students and alumni, including football players. The Hustler has communicated with four of those who have come forward and will continue to report on this story as we are able. At this time, The Hustler is not reporting the names of accused individuals as we continue to investigate and attempt to contact involved parties. This story will be updated as more information becomes available to The Hustler.

Students and alumni came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and rape, against multiple current and former Vanderbilt football players via Twitter on June 20.

The accused football players have either not responded to requests for comment from The Hustler or denied the allegations.

A spokesperson for Vanderbilt University’s athletic department emailed the following statement to The Hustler on June 20, in response to questions about four of the allegations: 

“We are deeply committed to ensuring the safety of each and every member of our Vanderbilt community. Acts of sexual assault and sexual misconduct in any context are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Any reports of sexual misconduct are forwarded to the Title IX Office for follow-up.”

On June 21, Athletic Director Candice Storey Lee posted a nine tweet thread acknowledging the accusations and stating “these allegations are handled by [Vanderbilt’s] Title IX and student accountability offices.” Her Twitter statement was later republished on the Vanderbilt athletics’ website.

Lee also said in the statement, “As a former student-athlete myself and someone who has dedicated herself to this university, I have no greater duty than making sure that all of the young people who come through Vanderbilt stay as safe and healthy as possible, and are able to succeed.”

Student groups including Vanderbilt BSA, Vanderbilt CSA, Vanderbilt NAACP, the Alpha Gamma Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and the Eta Beta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. have issued statements condemning sexual misconduct on Vanderbilt’s campus, supporting survivors and those who have been sharing their stories and calling for stronger allyship and accountability. 

On June 24, Interim Chancellor and Vice Provost Susan Wente and Athletic Director Lee also emailed a joint statement from the university addressing sexual misconduct and assault that read in part: “As women and mothers ourselves, our hearts go out to all whose lives have been forever altered by any such heinous acts. As leaders, we are committed to striving every day to provide the safest and healthiest environment possible for all of our students, and we are deeply sorry that this institution we have worked to lead has not been able to provide this for everyone.”

In response to the recent allegations, the university will be conducting a review of campus policies, processes and support systems to assess their effectiveness, per the statement. The review will then inform an action plan that will address process gaps and improve existing programs that are operated by Project Safe, the Title IX office, Vanderbilt athletics and other parts of the university to combat sexual misconduct, according to the university’s statement.

These accusations came seven years after four former Vanderbilt football players—Brandon Vandenburg, Cory Batey, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie—were charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. In addition, Vandenburg was charged with tampering with evidence and unlawful photography.

Vandenburg was eventually sentenced to 17 years in prison. Batey and Banks were each sentenced to 15 years in prison, and McKenzie was sentenced to 10 years of probation as part of a plea deal, according to a 2018 New York Post article.

Kaleigh Clemons-Green was one of the students who came forward on June 20, 2020 and was willing to speak to The Hustler about her experience. Clemons-Green, a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, graduated from Vanderbilt in May and was a member of the women’s basketball team

Clemons-Green said she decided to share her story because one of the other women that had posted allegations on Twitter was a mentor of hers at Vanderbilt.

“I didn’t want [my mentor] to feel like people don’t believe her,” Clemons-Green said. “Being another student-athlete as well, people think it can’t happen to us because we are student-athletes. They think that we have a voice with these things. It happens to even the ones people think are the strongest. I didn’t want her to feel alone and I wanted her to have some validation. This is not just an isolated incident.”

Clemons-Green said she first encountered her alleged assaulter prior to her arrival at Vanderbilt. She said she had met the former Vanderbilt football player through a mutual friend.

The alleged assault took place in 2018. Clemons-Green said she was spending time with the former football player in her dorm room, similar to previous encounters they’d had.

“Then it escalated,” Clemons-Green said. “He made a move, and I did not feel comfortable with it. I said no, but it progressed, and his aggressions started to get stronger. At that point, I told him seriously that he needed to stop.”

Once she threatened to start yelling, the former football player stopped, Clemons-Green said.

Clemons-Green said she reported the incident to Project Safe but not to the Title IX office.

“I wanted them to know the name in case it ever happened again to anyone else, but I did not want to report to the police. They just had his name in their database,” Clemons-Green said.

“It actually happened again with the [football player] to someone else,” Clemons-Green said. “[The victim] reported it, so that process was a little different just because he was a serial offender at this point. The second time it happened, they had to—by law—notify people that it happened a second time. So when it happened a second time, I was notified.”

Clemons-Green said she received the notice from Project Safe via email but does not know any information about the other alleged victim. 

The Hustler was not able to obtain a copy of the email from Clemons-Green or Project Safe, nor confirm that the athlete was reported to Project Safe.

“In accordance with best practices and to protect student privacy, Project Safe does not confirm that it is working or has worked with particular students, even when those students may have shared their experiences publicly,” Cara Tuttle Bell, Director at Project Safe, said in an email to The Hustler. 

“Survivor speak-outs of all forms can prompt a range of emotional responses, and we have been helping students process their experiences and feelings and offering guidance for how students can support their friends,” Tuttle Bell said. “Project Safe remains available 24 hours a day to support any member of the VU community who has been affected by sexual assault or other forms of intimate partner violence.”

“It seemed like there was a lack of accountability on the football side. He was getting in trouble on campus,” Clemons-Green said. “Because he was a football player, people were turning a blind eye to it.”

Other publications including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, 247 Sports and Bleacher Report have written about the recent allegations.