Notre Dame the bigger villain than Prince Shembo in Lizzy Seeberg case

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prince-shembo

When you search for “Prince Shembo” in Google, do you know what comes up in the auto-complete function?

“Prince Shembo rape.”

When I entered “Prince Shembo” into WordPress (the software I use to create this site) when commencing this article, the exact same thing occurred. In Bing, the auto-complete shows “Prince Shembo Arrest” and in Yahoo! you get “Prince Shembo sexual assault.”

Shembo has never even been charged let alone convicted of rape or sexual assault in his life, but this internet reality is what Shembo has had to live with the past three and a half years. Now that doesn’t mean Shembo is the victim here. You already know who the true victim is. Shembo showcased some of that repugnant “blame the victim” mentality in his first public comments about Lizzy Seeberg at the NFL Scouting Combine this past weekend.

However, he’s also not the most heinous villain in this situation either. This is literally an instance where “the cover up is worse than the crime.”

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Since Seeberg committed suicide in September 2010, pretty much everyone in the ND media corps has known that Prince Shembo was indeed the Fighting Irish football player alleged to have perpetrated sexual battery against Seeberg. None of us could ever print his name because you just can’t smear someone’s reputation like that. You can only use their name if they were charged with a crime.

So this comes down to he said vs. she said. And tragically, when she said happened, both University and local authorities neglected it, and it led to the 19-year-old from Northbrook, IL taking her own life. So now it’s he said vs. do you believe what he said. Only Prince Shembo and Lizzy Seeberg know what happened in that dorm room that fateful summer evening.

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The co-ed at St. Mary’s College claimed that Prince Shembo grabbed her breast in an undesired fashion, and filed a complaint of sexual battery the next day.

The day after that, a close friend of Prince Shembo sent a text message to Seeberg warning: “Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea.” Nine days after that, Seeberg, who was in psychological counseling, and suffering from anxiety disorder, was found dead due to a self-inflicted prescription drug overdose.

Somehow the internet spun all that into labeling Prince Shembo a rapist and his name has been intertwined with Seeberg’s ever since. So although Prince Shembo was never brought to court, he’s clearly lost in the court of public opinion.

Prince spoke publicly Saturday about how he wanted to clear his name but Notre Dame football Coach Brian Kelly wouldn’t let him. He also said that he didn’t press Kelly too much about trying to clear his name. Of course, now that Prince Shembo wants to get drafted and play in the NFL, he has to tell his side of the story. Whether you believe him or not….from David Haugh’s column in the Chicago Tribune today:

“See if Shembo indeed established a pattern of disciplinary problems back home in Charlotte, N.C., that Notre Dame coaches ignored. Find the high school teacher whom Shembo allegedly threw a desk at after having his cellphone taken away, as Politics Daily reported. Chase the rumors about Shembo’s past, which reporters never had context to pursue or report as the media concealed the identity of someone not charged with a crime as a matter of fairness.”

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In other words, question the answers.

But the much bigger evil is the way Notre Dame handled the investigation and the public aftermath. The school should’ve addressed the case when it happened. And if Shembo was so concerned about clearing his name, maybe he should’ve done so back then.

Why didn’t Shembo return repeated calls from Notre Dame Security Police after Seeberg reported the incident?

Why did he trust Brian Kelly to do the right thing? Why did he think Kelly had Shembo’s best interests in mind?

Why did Shembo take two weeks to give his statements to police?

What kind of keystone cops allowed Prince Shembo to evade them for so long without questioning him?

Notre Dame police obviously knew where to find him: his home/football practice field/in class.

How was Prince Shembo able to obtain the high-powered Chicago personal injury attorney, an ND alum who worked with the University’s public relations office?

I mean these are questions right?

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Quoting the Trib’s Chris Hine:

“The Tribune reported in November 2010 that campus authorities did not initially tell county police about Seeberg’s report of a sexual attack, nor did campus police refer the case to the county’s special victims unit, which was established to handle sex offenses, according to county officials. Notre Dame police didn’t contact Shembo until five days after she died, according to the Seeberg family.”

And back to Haugh:Zachary Fardon, now the highly regarded U.S. Attorney in Chicago, felt so strongly about the Seebergs’ contention that Notre Dame mishandled the case that he represented the family for free.”

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The Seebergs are not publicly commenting on what Shembo had to say this past weekend.

No one from Notre Dame is answering calls from the media on this, and I’m guessing the administrators and Sports Information Department isn’t sleeping too well right this week. I doubt Prince Shembo is either. This is the red flag of all red flags for NFL GMs considering drafting him. If you’re a professional scout, how do you explain taking a kid with that kind of stigma?

If Notre Dame had allowed him to come forth publicly and show us that he has “nothing to hide” as he so claims, then Shembo might not be living life right now having to wear that digital version of a scarlet letter.

This despite never being tried, let alone found guilty of that deplorable and heinous crime. Therefore, although Prince Shembo is certainly not a sympathetic character, the bigger blame is on the people at Notre Dame who only cared about maintaining their image, and cared none for the Seeberg family. A kid died partially because of an incident involving a member of their college football program, and they swept it all under the rug, never even publicly acknowledging it, let alone trying to make amends. Then a few weeks later, another kid named Declan Sullivan dies.

This time it was someone directly within the Notre Dame football family, and no one from ND was held accountable for it.

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Having two such tragedies occur so close to each other, and seeing the way Notre Dame handled each of the two situations speaks volumes about how this program has functioned lately.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on news talk radio; with regular segments on ESPN,NBCCBS and Fox. A former NBC Chicago and Washington Times writer, he’s also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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