Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey said “You’re just going to have to take our word” on the details of the team’s investigation into Chauncey Billups.
In 1997, a woman accused Billups – then a Celtics rookie – of rape. He has denied doing anything nonconsensual and was never charged (he later settled a civil suit). Portland hired him as head coach last month.
Olshey’s obstruction was unacceptable at the time.
It looks even worse now.
The team’s review did not obtain information directly from several primary sources, including the accuser.
“It’s news to us that they conducted an investigation,” said Margaret A. Burnham, attorney for Jane Doe.
Burnham, a law professor and director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern School of Law in Boston, represented Doe in the 1998 federal civil lawsuit against Billups and three other men, two of whom were teammates. Burnham said she remains Doe’s attorney 23 years later and that “we stand by the allegations.”
Whether or not the Trail Blazers interviewed the accuser does not change what happened on that night in 1997. Her standing by the allegations matters. Billups denying them also matters.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to adjudicate the situation so many years later.
But how hard did the Trail Blazers even try? Not contacting the accuser or her attorney looks like a massive oversight — at best. Really, it only adds credence to the idea Portland chose Billups as its coach then determined how to complete the hire despite the backlash.
Fair and thorough investigations should be championed by both victims and the wrongfully accused. That is the best way to get justice.
Instead, there’s little faith in the conclusions of Portland’s investigation and even less belief in Olshey’s trustworthiness on this issue.