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Editorial: Brian Wardle, Bradley Athletics handling investigation the right way

On Saturday, Feb. 13, Bradley men’s basketball announced that it had suspended four of its players — seniors Elijah Childs and Danya Kingsby and juniors Terry Nolan Jr. and Ja’Shon Henry — for unnamed violations of team standards.

The four players appeared on the bench in street clothes for both of the team’s road games against Missouri State but remained suspended.

On Wednesday afternoon, the violations became public, as a report by the Springfield News-Leader revealed that the four had been named in a police report due to a “sex offense” not qualified as rape. The investigation is ongoing and has cleared Henry from accusations, and no charges have been brought forth.

Considering the severity of a “sex offense” allegation, the Bradley men’s basketball program, led by head coach Brian Wardle, has handled the situation properly — with swift action and appropriate punishment.

Despite the recent push from the #MeToo movement in recent years, college athletics in particular have continued to mishandle sexual assault allegations. A situation with the LSU football team, in which staff members were alerted of several incidents but chose to ignore them, is one recent example. Bradley did not make this mistake.

Winning is the primary goal for athletic teams, but Bradley has shown that it isn’t of the foremost importance.

Childs, Nolan and Henry represent the top three scorers on the roster, while Kingsby plays significant minutes and has started 10 games. Suspending them undoubtedly decreased Bradley’s chances of winning at a critical juncture of the season, but Wardle has made clear through his words and actions, that maintaining proper behavior off the court is more important to the program than winning — as it should be.

“There’s program standards,” Wardle said after the team’s loss to Missouri State on Saturday. “When you violate those standards, it’s pretty easy to make those decisions … Hopefully, we can learn and grow as a group.”

Now that the police report has come to light, Bradley hasn’t danced around the subject. The program has been careful with its words, but straightforward in recognizing the severity of the situation.

“The players in question are suspended from basketball-related activities, pending the investigation and we are continuing to gather information,” Wardle said in a statement during a press conference on Wednesday. “Our program has always set high standards, and violations of any type are not tolerated. We have and will continue to hold ourselves and our players to those standards.”

As previously stated, the investigation is ongoing and a police report doesn’t mean that these players are guilty or will be charged. Those mentioned in the report are innocent until proven guilty. If the investigation runs its course and finds that Childs, Kingsby and Nolan are innocent, their names will be cleared. However, it is more appropriate to err on the side of caution by recognizing the seriousness of the situation and keeping these three players away from the team.

Until the investigation is complete, basketball can take a backseat.

The Scout editorial board commends Bradley men’s basketball for doing the right thing and hopes that athletic programs at the university and around the nation treat allegations of this nature appropriately.

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