Former Texas Tech captain on abuse claims in women’s basketball: ‘We were terrified of retaliation’
Editor's note: Former Texas Tech women’s basketball player Brittany Brewer, now with the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA, penned this letter to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal to address recent allegations of abuse by coaches within the program. These are the first public comments Brewer has made on the subject.
Texas Tech fired coach Marlene Stollings on Aug. 6, a day after USA TODAY Sports' investigation detailing players' allegations of abuse by Stollings, strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella and assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins. Petrella, who denies any misconduct, resigned in March after the conclusion of the season. Lowry Dawkins was fired Aug. 7.
Here is Brewer's letter in part:
Dear Red Raider Nation,
This year has been a rough one for all of us. For the athletes, fans, faculty, staff, student-body, and coaches, for everyone. The past week has been no exception.
With the uncovering of a lot of pain and abuse within the Lady Raider basketball program, some of you were heartbroken, some were in denial, but everyone was shocked. To those of you who empathized with us, thank you for acknowledging the severity of what we went through and supporting us. To those of you who could not believe this situation was real, I understand. It is hard to imagine that the things shared happened, that they stayed hidden for so long. But they did happen, to my teammates, to me.
Texas Tech's Brittany Brewer shoots during a game against UTSA on Dec. 29, 2019, at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo: Brad Tollefson/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)
Everything you read was true.
In fact, there was so much more that happened, but most of my teammates wanted to remain anonymous. I wanted to remain anonymous, because I did not want it to affect my future. But as I am sitting here writing this, I realize how unfair my thinking is: why should I fear for my future, simply because I am sharing the truth of the trauma me and my teammates went through?
For most of us, including me, it was hard to relive our experience. Just waking up that day and reading what my teammates went through in writing was a battle in itself, and I already knew all that was shared.
I lived through it with them.
For those of you asking why this just came to light, or why you had no idea, I want you to know it is not your fault. It was not public knowledge. We were terrified of retaliation.
We did not trust a lot of people.
As the team captain, I had no idea how to handle what was happening. My teammates were barely making it, and I was just trying to find some silver lining in order to show up at practice the next day and play the game that I love. I was trying so hard to be the leader my coaches wanted me to be, which I knew was not right and was not who I am. I was walking on eggshells trying to please them, while trying to support my teammates, but also while trying to muster up my own strength not to quit.
A lot of my teammates transferred and I fully supported their decisions. I wanted to leave with them. Honestly, I was envious they were getting out of the situation while I was still there; however, I knew the Lord was telling me to stay. I have seen so many of the reasons why He still wanted me there, and I know there are still more to be revealed.
But it does not change the fact that, pardon my language, it sucked.
I am still dealing with the aftermath of being in such a toxic environment. I am still healing from it all and rewiring my thought processes. My teammates who shared their stories are not soft, they are not the product of participation trophies and neither am I.
There is currently a very blurred line between tough coaching and abuse. I have had very tough coaches who have demanded a lot of me, but they never belittled me or used fear as their primary motivating agent.
I looked at every angle when I was defining what we were experiencing. I tried to rationalize it, but I could not and I still can’t: What we went through was abuse.
All of this being said, I am still grateful to Texas Tech University for my education and for bringing me lifelong sisters in my teammates. This situation was a big mess up, but I do not think it defines the experience of most student-athletes that have chosen to be Red Raiders.
Many of my friends and fellow athletes loved their time at Texas Tech, and while I cannot say the same, I can see why. What I will say though is that no great amenity or new facility outweighs the impact of a coach.
Coaches make or break a student-athlete’s experience.
With this being said, I implore our administration to take care of my teammates who are still at the university. Listen to them. Their experience can still be redeemed, and they deserve it.
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