DURHAM, N.C. – A lacrosse player's e-mail rant about killing and skinning strippers in his Duke University dorm room has led to his coach's resignation, the season's cancellation and an internal probe into the school's response to alleged violence by athletes.
Wednesday's cascade of events was the latest fallout from allegations that three players on the lacrosse team raped a stripper at an off-campus party on March 13.
No charges have been filed in the case, but sophomore Ryan McFadyen, 19, of Mendham, N.J., the player who wrote the e-mail has been suspended, and Duke President Richard H. Brodhead promised a "very, very serious self-study" of campus culture.
"I pledge that Duke will respond with appropriate seriousness when the truth is established," he wrote in a letter to the community.
Students and townspeople have marched almost daily since the alleged attack on the stripper, a student across town at North Carolina Central University. The woman, who is black, claims three white players pulled her into a bathroom and assaulted her.
Protesters are angry over the school's handling of the allegations and the team members' refusal to cooperate with police. Investigators have said the athletes are sticking together and keeping silent.
Authorities have taken DNA samples from the team's 46 white players. The sole black player has been ruled out. District Attorney Mike Nifong has said that he is "pretty confident that a rape occurred," but that he does not expect to file charges until next week.
The team's co-captains have acknowledged hiring the stripper and serving alcohol but have denied that anyone was sexually assaulted at the party.
On Wednesday, authorities unsealed documents stating that less than two hours after the alleged rape, McFadyen sent an e-mail saying he was planning an encore to "tonights (sic) show." The message, addressed "To whom it may concern," said, "however there will be no nudity."
"I plan on killing the bitches as soon as the(y) walk in and proceding to cut their skin off," wrote McFadyen, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound Atlantic Coast Conference honor roll player who was one of five Duke players from the exclusive Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., adding in vulgar terms that he would find the act sexually satisfying. The e-mail was signed with McFadyen's jersey number, 41.
McFadyen's name, however, does not match the three names the woman gave to police as those of her attackers.
N.C. Central Chancellor James Ammons called the e-mail "very disturbing" and cautioned students not "to seek retribution or take matters into their own hands."
"I am encouraging our students to continue to show support for the alleged victim and to continue to plan events that better educate individuals about sexual violence and racism," Ammons said in a statement.
The Rev. William Barber, who leads the state's NAACP chapter, vowed to watch investigators closely and said their work must be done openly, "so the whole community will feel confident that justice is being served, without regard to racial, economic or social status."
Brodhead said McFadyen was the only player suspended so far, and that the man was removed from campus. He also said he has heard that other lacrosse team members have changed their places of residence for safety reasons.
"The court released today a previously sealed warrant whose contents are sickening and repulsive," Brodhead said in announcing the cancellation of the rest of the season. Last week, he suspended the team from play.
Shortly after the e-mail's release, lacrosse coach Mike Pressler resigned, ending a 16-year tenure marked by three Atlantic Coast Conference championships and a trip to last year's national final.
Brodhead called Pressler's resignation "highly appropriate" but declined to say whether it had been requested.
Brodhead said the investigation will include a probe of at the lacrosse team's culture and the school's response to the scandal to uncover any "special history of bad behavior with this team."
The investigation of Duke's response will be conducted by William Bowen, president of the Andrew Mellon Foundation and a past president of Princeton University, and Julius Chambers, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and a past NCCU chancellor.
The university's critics have complained that it has taken three weeks to reach these actions. There have been near-daily protests on and off campus.
Coincidentally, McFadyen attended a "Take Back the Night" march on campus on March 29.
"I completely support this event and this entire week," the player told The Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper. "It's just sad that the allegations we are accused of happened to fall when they did."
McFadyen's attorney, Glen Bachman, took over his representation late Wednesday from attorney Robert Ekstrand, who said earlier in the day that while its language was vile, "the e-mail itself is perfectly consistent with the boys' unequivocal assertion that no sexual assault took place that evening."
Bachman declined to comment on the e-mail and its contents.
In the warrant to search the player's room, police provided a detailed timeline of the alleged attack. The warrant also adds conspiracy to commit murder as a crime that police are investigating.
Also, in a February 2005 posting to a friend's bravenet.com guestbook, McFadyen wrote of enjoying Duke lacrosse, but noting "we have 48 hour rule so we can only drink hardcore on saturday nights ..." He also joked, in error-riddled sentences, about two fellow players "being women on the lacrosse field, menaing they both got hurt so coach rips them appart."