Austin-based journalist Jessica Luther explained the origins of her book about sexual assaults and college football at South by Southwest on Friday.
Luther gained national attention in the summer of 2015 when she co-authored a story in Texas Monthly about an underreported sexual assault by a Baylor football player. Baylor, though, is barely mentioned in “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape,” which was published in 2016.
While talking about her book’s genesis, Luther mentioned investigations at Vanderbilt and Navy. A Florida State graduate and longtime fan of the Seminoles — “When I met my husband, we were freshmen in college, and he had never been to a football game. I did not understand what that meant,” she said — Luther also had her interest piqued during Jameis Winston’s sexual assault investigation in 2013.
“I just didn’t like how sports media was writing about this,” Luther said. “And this is coming from a fan who was obsessed at the time with the team. It was all about what’s going to happen to the team. … There was very little about the reported violence itself.”
Luther wrote her book with sections devoted to a large number of sexual assaults involving football players (she researched 130 cases that dated back to 1974), with narratives about race and truth-telling and those in power.
The book also contains Luther’s suggestions to help tackle this issue, which include accountability, the hiring of women, and education about preventive consent and trauma.
“I was adamant there had to be solutions. It couldn’t just be a really sad book about violence. There’s about 13 chapters of my own (playbook), the plays I would write if I was a coach in charge of this issue,” she said.
Luther and ESPN’s Kavitha A. Davidson are working on a book that is due out in 2018.