Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Sep 2005

New Trust Lets Coles Share Secret

A powerful story from Karen Crouse of the New York Times. When he was an adolescent, the Jets' Laveranues Coles was molested by a man his mother later married.

"Some kids do look up to us," he said. "Maybe if I say something, they'll feel strong enough to say, 'I can say something now because it's happened to him.' Even if it's one kid who I can touch, who my story gives him the strength to come out and say something, I feel like it's worth it." ... His stepfather was sentenced to nine years in a Florida prison in 1992 after pleading guilty to lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor. He served three and a half years; he was later convicted of an unrelated felony and has been in prison since 2001.

I admire Coles greatly for coming forward with an obviously difficult chapter of his life; he many never know how many children he helps.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 18 Sep 2005

22 comments, Last at 20 Sep 2005, 12:17am by Kim

Comments

1
by kleph (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 1:02pm

This is simply one of the bravest things I have ever seen anyone do. It takes a hell of a lot of courage on a personal level to openly admit something of this nature but then to do it in the exaggerated public eye is simply astounding.

I do believe this story is incredibly important because I do believe stories like this make a difference. Victims of such crimes are listening for someone speaking about such things amid the cacophony of bluster and machismo that makes up most of the public persona of sports and entertainment.

I hope that the response to the story is positive for Coles as well. Sadly, such admissions are more likely to be interpreted as weakness in the public sphere and the likelihood he will have to deal with immature and crude repercussions is almost certain.

And thanks for posting this on the site.

2
by Jay B. (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 2:56pm

Even if it’s one kid who I can touch

Interesting choice of words.

Seriously, terrific story, and I applaud Coles for coming forward.

3
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 5:01pm

While there will always be (edited to keep it clean) out there, I remember the reaction to Sheldon Kennedy's revelations being extremely supportive and positive (he had been raped by his hockey coach in juniors). I hope the reaction for Coles will be similarly supportive, if not more so. I've seen up close how incredibly difficult it can be to recover from this kind of trauma (and what can happen if it's not dealt with), and I pray Coles is getting the help he needs and dealing with it properly. When he said he just tries to shrug it off, it does send up some red flags - hopefully going public like this is a sign that he's dealing with it more head-on and will recover more completely.

4
by Vinny (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 5:20pm

You wonder how much something like this was still affecting Coles during his troubled college days at Florida State. You'll recall that Bobby Bowden kicked Coles off the team after he and Pete Warrick took their infamous five-finger discounts at Dillard's. Coles had committed previous transgressions that made Bowden not so forgiving towards him, whereas Warrick stayed on the team (and led them to a national title). Not surprising to see such an awful childhood lead someone down the path of trouble as a young man. Good for him for facing up to it and talking about it publicly for the benefit of today's kids.

5
by Adam (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 6:20pm

I hate it when sports commentators overuse words like 'hero' and 'courage' to describe athletic feats done well.

Laveranues Coles is a real hero.

6
by sublime33 (not verified) :: Sun, 09/18/2005 - 8:12pm

Kudos for an athlete like Coles to come forward. The only other public sports figure I recall doing this was Tom Paciorek, who only went public after leaving his gig as a White Sox announcer.

7
by john madden is fat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:23am

"Laveranues Coles is a real hero."
He's a hero because he acknowledges his past? what sort of crap is that?

8
by putnamp (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:54am

Any reason to not assume #7 is just a troll? As is I wouldn't even grant him the pleasure of a response.

9
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 10:32am

Coles has always been one of my favorite Jets, and this just increases my respect for him (and it's much more respect than I have for Rodney Harrison :)). Thanks for speaking out, Lavernaues.

10
by Russell (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 11:06am

Good for Coles coming forward with such a difficult chapter of his life, particularly difficult to do in the ultra-macho world of pro sports. Hopefully he does receive the same kind of support that Kennedy got.

11
by Dman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:03pm

I have to agree with #7. The words "courage" and "hero" are the most misused words in our language. I'm sure it wasn't easy for him to admit, but it by no means makes him "courageous" or a "hero". Next time he jumps on a grenade we can start throwing those words around, until then lets have a little perspective.

12
by Stevis (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:20pm

Dman, do you really think no one can be a hero outside of a military situation?

I agree the words are overused, but I feel that they are appropriate here.

13
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 12:47pm

I respectfully beg to differ with Dman. I believe it requires a great deal of courage to talk about being abused, especially with someone you don't know, and especially in such a public forum - when you're a professional athlete, of course, virtually everything is a public forum.

I don't think describing such a person as a hero is a misuse of language, although I'd agree that virtually every positive word has been overused by announcers. Perhaps Coles hasn't risked or sacrificed his life, but he should certainly be noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose.

14
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 3:37pm

Anyone that helps victims to recover is a hero, and Cole has done just that.

15
by putnamp (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 4:58pm

I think you're under-valuing the importance of coming forward to victims of sexual abuse, Dman. It's the first step to recovery, and without that recovery the problem can manifest itself in the form of alcoholism, drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or any number of social anxieties or disorders.

If Coles helps kids come forward and learn to accept and subsequently move on with what has happened to them, he is effectively saving them from becoming any of those listed above. That sounds pretty heroic to me.

16
by Dman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:07pm

You can be a hero outside a military situation. And I'm not undervaluing the importance of coming forward. I'm simply saying that the word "hero" and "courage" is a bit much to describe someone who is essentially not doing anything to sacrifice himself for a greater good, or put himself in imminent danger for the sake of someone else. That would be heroism and courage. As an example, the media loves to say that the victims that where in the towers on 9/11 where courageous and heroes, they weren't. The firefighters who saw the planes hit and rushed to the scene to save people, those are courageous heroes. Big difference.

17
by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:20pm

One thing that's interesting in all of this is that Coles seems to have no hard feelings toward his mother. I think it would be completely understandable if Coles were angry at his mom for bringing this monster into his life. Seems like a very forgiving guy.

18
by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:35pm

Dman, Coles is putting himself at risk to benefit others -- he's risking having to hear horrible comments from a-holes at eight stadiums every year, and he's doing it because he wants to help children who are in the position he was in. I agree that sportscasters go overboard with calling athletes heroes, but in this case Coles deserves any praise he gets.

19
by putnamp (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:51pm

#16 - I think you let your excitement to decry the overuse of "hero" and "courage" overwhelm your sense of perspective when you complained that Coles wasn't either.

20
by Dman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:54pm

MDS, putting yourself at risk to "hear horrible comments" isn't really putting yourself at risk. While you may have a point putnamp, I still don't think this qualifies coles as either. Role model? Sure. Commendable action? Definetly. Heroic? Hardly.

21
by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 09/19/2005 - 5:56pm

For an example of bad use of "heroic", how's this, regarding last week's GB-DET game: "At the center of all of this was Favre, fighting on, shouting at teammates to line up in the 2-minute drill, still gun slinging to the bitter end. We've all loved that about Brett. It has been downright heroic."

Or Google "Brett Favre" and "courageous".

22
by Kim (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2005 - 12:17am

Perhaps here, hero is in the eyes of the beholder. To some child who is emboldened to do something about horrible things that are being done to him/her by Coles' admission, Coles could realistically be called a hero. To the rest of us, it is simply a courageous admission for a man working in a very testosterone laden environment, where owning up to being a "victim" can not be easy.

In any event, whether we call him hero, or courageous, or merely say that he has done some good today, I give Coles kudos for that action. He has shown a maturity that is lacking in many of the "heroes" that we watch on the gridiron every Sunday.