In the 90’s, the Nebraska Cornhuskers dominated the college football landscape. This was never more true than the 1995 season, in which they were the focal point for all things good and bad with college football. Arguably the best team in college football history, they are also known for Lawrence Phillips.

Early in the 1995 season, Phillips was establishing himself as the best college football player in the country. After his best collegiate performance, a game at Michigan State, he assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Kate McEwen.

The details of the assault were disgusting. Phillips scaled the outside of the apartment complex to get into the apartment she was. (The apartment was that of teammate Scott Frost, future starting quarterback for the Huskers.) Phillips dragged McEwen by the hair down three flights of stairs, and also slammed her head into a wall.

Back in 1995, though, many Husker fans were willing to justify Phillips’ inexcusable actions. I know this, because I was in a number of the conversations. I know this, because I was one trying to minimize what Phillips did.

  • “Scott Frost should have known better!”
  • “Kate should have known better!”
  • “He comes from a broken home!”
  • “He pleaded no contest!”
  • “Who better than Dr. Tom to help the man!”
  • “What else does he have outside of football?”

Knowing I made comments like the above, in defense of a football program at the expense of victims (like Kate McEwen) is disgusting and embarrassing. I’ve prayed and asked forgiveness more than once for these actions.

Of course, when it’s a player from a rival program we easily castigate the program when they give multiple chances to a player for heinous acts. It’s easy to be “righteous” then.

It wasn’t just Lawrence Phillips that Husker fans defended blindly, it was also players like Christian Peter. Peter was easier to defend because he was jovial with the media and had a quick wit. Over time, though, it became clear that Peter had an issue with alcohol and women. Many of the cases weren’t reported extensively, or they were covered up, while he was a football player at Nebraska.

Part of the reason we know details of Peter’s acts while he was at Nebraska is due to the courage of Kathy Redmond Brown. Brown was raped on two occasions by Peter while they were at Nebraska. When Brown finally came forward, she was on the receiving end of vitriol and hate from Husker fans concerned she might bring down the program.*

*I’m curious, fans making these type of comments, what would they allow a star player to get away with? Would they allow it if it was their own child that was a victim?

Brown stayed the course of confronting the violence done to her, heroically I might add, and is the founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes.

I had been familiar with some of her story, but it wasn’t until a New York Times piece on her really enlightened me to who she is and what she does. I googled her name and organization, and read more about her work. On a whim, I emailed her and said how I appreciated her story. I added that it would be cool to have her speak sometime at the church. She responded nicely, and before I knew it we were planning an event.

During the course of planning, it was great to hear more details of her story. I shared with her a bit of my story as a Husker fan, and how it relates to her story. I felt compelled to share with her how I’ve repented for what I used to think when it came to Husker players (Christian Peter and Lawrence Phillips) and their criminal acts. She was gracious.

This Saturday, we will be hosting Kathy Redmond Brown, and her husband Derek Brown (former Husker running back) at an event we’ve titled Game Changer. It will be at the Old Mill Campus, starting at 7 PM. We will be live streaming it to the Online Campus as well. Here’s how we’ve described it in some of our promotions.

Bad things happen to good people, and tragedy can be a life changer. Overcoming deep wounds can be difficult. What role does grace play in healing from trauma? how can tragedy and pain be turned into good? Is forgiveness really the biggest game changer of all?

Don’t miss this unforgettable story of the real life experiences of Katherine Redmond, a victim of sexual assault, and former Husker and NFL running back Derek Brown, a teammate of Katherine’s assailant.

I’m really excited about this event. I’m grateful for Derek and Kathy being willing to be vulnerable and share their stories. I hope you can make it out to Gathering, whether in person or by watching live at the Online Campus.

One thought on “Game Changer (And Exposing some Shame as a Husker Fan)

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