Hoops coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke has been accused of abuse by former players


Cynthia Cooper-Dyke

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke
photo: AP

How often can the system fail its female athletes? Today’s latest report on an abusive trainer from the athlete feels like it is just the next in a long line of mistreatment of female athletes by their coaches and institutions who willingly overlook complaints.

The case being reported today is a little better known because coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, dubbed the “Michael Jordan of women’s basketball,” is a pillar of the sport and has made a name for herself as one of the greatest players of all time at the collegiate, professional and international levels. Perhaps that’s why she was able to transition from college job to college job when her athletes came forward and were turned away at the door, while the administration stood by Cooper-Dyke firmly as she allegedly became a basketball player physically, mentally, and emotionally abused.

The account is somewhat graphic in its details, detailing Cooper-Dyke calling her players “Bitch,” “Pussy,” and “Retarded,” pretending to have oral sex with a male assistant coach, and frequently and inappropriately altering their sex lives Athletes Comments forcing athletes to survive injuries and physically punishing one athlete to the point of violently vomiting and scraping skin from her knees and shoulders. It goes on – at UNC-Wilmington, at USC, at Texas Southern, at Prairie View A&M. Some former players spoke on the record and others, but the sentiment abounded: Cooper-Dyke had grossly abused her power as a trusted adult in these girls’ lives.

And that happens at all levels of women’s sport. Take the NWSL a professional league in which several Only last year, coaches were accused of abuse in the form of racist and bigoted statements, verbal abuse and even sexual assault of players. Last month was the head coach of the University of Florida women’s soccer team fired after complaints of verbal abuse just a season later. The Syracuse women’s basketball coach resigned in 2021 after players made allegations of physical harassment and offensive language. Illinois fired her head women’s basketball coach in 2017 after players filed a lawsuit alleging a racially abusive environment within the program.

The disheartening thing about this list and the Cooper-Dyke piece is that we only know about these lists and which the admins presciently got rid of. Many players’ concerns regarding Cooper-Dyke have been dismissed, and it would be foolish to think that this sort of dismissal is unique to the schools where she trained.

Women’s sport faces many hurdles and challenges, and while its growth in popularity, viewership, and funding over the last few decades has been truly encouraging, this article truly emphasizes that the issues that need to be addressed in women’s sport are: In the general public, not always necessary.

It’s not about “being soft,” it’s about treating collegiate athletes with some decency and respect. Bobby Knight’s behavior towards gamers has long been overlooked because he was winning, but publicly humiliating young adults isn’t “tough love,” it’s an abuse of power and has the potential to be incredibly psychologically damaging, an effect many of them experience the feeling described by women in The Athletic.

The new era of student-athlete empowerment seems like an indescribable commodity in such situations. The ability to switch at will and use your voice to express yourself should hopefully help alleviate some of those programming disasters. But first and foremost, administrators and executives need to believe athletes when they say something is wrong, rather than letting the likes of Cooper-Dyke go unchecked for years.

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