Shannon demonstrates toxic standard

Rebecca Jozwiak | Staff Writer | Terrence Shannon Jr. was allowed to play again thanks to a preliminary injunction granted on Jan. 19.

Rebecca Jozwiak | Staff Writer

Throughout the college basketball season, plenty of positive achievements are highlighted in the media. However, March Madness shines a spotlight on star athletes – even the ones facing criminal allegations. Whether they want to be in the spotlight or not, athletes must face the consequences of their misconduct on and off the court.

After defeating Duquesne 89-63, the University of Illinois team members spoke to the media in a postgame news conference – except for their leading scorer, Terrence Shannon Jr. begging the question: Why would the team’s leading scorer and the Big Ten 2024 Most Valuable Player be absent at a press conference after dropping 30 points in a March Madness game?

The simple answer: Shannon is a controversial figure for the team.

In September 2023, Shannon allegedly groped a woman’s buttocks, in addition to touching her inappropriately under her skirt without her consent. Once the claim was filed with law enforcement in early December 2023, and a warrant put out for his arrest on Dec 27, Shannon turned himself in a day later. Shortly thereafter, the senior guard was released on a $50,000 bail.

He was charged with one count of rape or an alternative count of sexual battery.

Due to the “zero-tolerance sexual conduct” policy implemented at the University of Illinois, Shannon was immediately suspended from team activities. On Jan. 2, 2024, Shannon wrote a 1,366 word letter that declared his innocence from the alleged assault.

Shannon went on to file a temporary restraining order against the University of Illinois seeking immediate reinstatement.

U.S. District Court Judge Coleen Lawless ruled in favor of Shannon, noting that the University of Illinois violated his civil rights with a suspension. Shannon would have suffered “irreparable harm” without the injunction – but what about his victim?

Hasn’t the victim of Shannon’s alleged assault also faced “irreparable harm” due to what happened to her?

By Jan. 21, Shannon was back on the court for the Illini, returning to a symphony of hoots and hollers.

The situation poses a daunting question: To what extent do we hold athletes accountable for their off-the-court actions?

Fans should realize that their favorite players need to face consequences for their actions. This, however, leads the argument further down a slippery slope: Does every player in every sport that has ever done something criminal deserve to be given the cold shoulder?

The answer to that is not totally clear. Depending on the incident, some actions may be seen as justified. Back in 2019, two Louisiana State football players were involved in a homicide case after a young man attempted to rob the duo. Both athletes reported the incident and waited for authorities to arrive at the scene.

The allegation against Shannon is justified – it is a prime example of a person taking advantage of another person’s bodily autonomy. A player wins a championship on the court, yet is fighting a battle in a courtroom.

Shannon finds himself in a compromising situation – are we seeing a young man, who has claimed his innocence the whole time, falsely accused of an act he did not commit? Or are we seeing a man who did commit a crime continue to advance his career free of serious consequence? Although there is no verdict yet, we must continue to hold our athletes to high standards.

When it comes to collegiate basketball, the treatment of athletes’ behaviors on and off the court has an astronomical wedge of sexism and double standards.

Angel Reese, a standout senior at Louisiana State University, has faced rampant criticism for her iconic ‘you can’t see me’ hand wave during the 2023 NCAA Championship Title Game. The taunt occurred in the fourth quarter of the game, as Reese tapped on her ring finger while staring down Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. Since then, Reese has faced massive criticism for her ‘unsportsmanlike’ behavior – according to NPR, the word ‘classless’ trended on X after the incident unfolded.

Flash forward nearly a year later to the Elite Eight round of the women’s NCAA tournament. Reese and Clark’s respective teams found themselves facing off against each other again. The Iowa Hawkeyes went on to defeat the Tigers, 94-87.

Reese scored 17 points and tied her career high of 20 rebounds against the Hawkeyes.

What did Reese have to say about the game and her performance?

“I’ve been through so much … I’ve been attacked so many times,” Reese said in a postgame conference on April 1, as she began to cry. “I’m still a human. All of [the criticism] has happened since I won the national championship. I said the other day I haven’t (been) happy since then.”

Reese has found herself verbally assaulted, sexualized and ridiculed for her now-infamous hand wave at Clark – but what about the treatment of Shannon? How does a woman taunting another player gain more controversy and criticism than a man on the court with an active assault case?

Outside of Reese’s life as a bona fide basketball player, the guard has dedicated the “Angel Reese Foundation” to women and underrepresented groups to educate them in sports, education, and literacy … yet all she seems to be known for is her ‘disrespectful’ behavior on the court.

It’s essential that we give the same amount of criticism to men that we do to our women, especially when the former’s misconduct does more harm than the latter. Regardless, we must treat each other the way we want to be treated, and not push our frustrations out on impressionable, young athletes.