This article contains depictions of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
Multiple reports in recent days are speculating that Memphis is pursuing New Mexico State transfer guard Deshawndre Washington.
Washington was loosely linked to the Tigers last month. But traction between the two parties has increased since Teafale Lenard’s eligibility is now in question.
However, Washington should be the last option on Memphis’ radar for a possible Lenard replacement. In fact, he shouldn’t be an option whatsoever.
The 22-year-old junior is a key defendant in the NMSU basketball hazing scandal that forced the program to fire head coach Greg Heiar and shut its season down prematurely on Feb. 12.
Washington’s Alleged Actions
Quite frankly, the acts Washington allegedly committed as part of the scandal are both despicable and disturbing.
He—along with teammates Doctor Bradley and Kim Aiken Jr.—allegedly participated in numerous hazing incidents involving other players and staff members. The trio allegedly subjected their hazing victims to what amounts to both battery and sexual assault.
A lawsuit from two former players—Deuce Benjamin and Shakiru Odunewu—details a few examples of what exactly the defendants were up to. Benjamin and Odunewu, a freshman and redshirt-freshman respectively during last season, are two alleged victims of the scandal.
Both were consistently targeted by Washington, Bradley and Aiken starting in the summer of 2022.
The worst incident involving Odunewu took place on Nov. 12, 2022. The Aggies were traveling via bus to play a road game against UTEP. The trio approached Odunewu at some point during the trip.
Washington then asked Odunewu, “Are you humble?” After Odunewu remained silent, Bradley and Aiken repeated Washington’s question in a “serious, menacing tone.” Washington then aggressively asked Odunewu, “Shak, are you f****** humble?”
The trio then allegedly tackled Odunewu onto the floor in the back of the bus. Aiken and Bradley held Odunewu down and pulled his pants and underwear down to his ankles. The trio slapped his bare buttocks and Odunewu felt fingers in his anus while his scrotum was simultaneously squeezed. Odunewu couldn’t call for help because he was held facedown while his mouth was covered by one of the three. This went on for an “indeterminable amount of time.”
The worst part is that none of the other players who saw the incident did anything to help Odunewu, as they were “afraid” to do so. The coaches, meanwhile, were seated at the front of the bus while focused on their phones and tablets. They were supposed to be supervising the players.
The incident only stopped after one of the coaches turned around and yelled out, “Stop playing around.”
Washington Humiliates Deuce Benjamin
Benjamin allegedly suffered similar treatment during this past season.
The most infamous event involving him occurred while the team was staying at a hotel for a road game.
Benjamin was pulled into a hotel room where some of his teammates were with some young women. Washington then told him in front of the women to “pull your a** out. This is what we do for the freshmen, pull your a** out.”
“No, no way,” Benjamin replied. Washington then said, “Do it or I grab your nuts.”
After Benjamin again refused, Washington exposed Benjamin’s backside and “forcefully grabbed his scrotum, inflicting great pain.”
For context, Benjamin is 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds while Washington is 6-foot-7 and 205 pounds. The latter had at least 6 inches and 30 pounds on the former.
This all occurred in front of the young women, which provided additional embarrassment for Benjamin.
Unfortunately, Benjamin and Odunewu are not the only victims of Washington, Bradley and Aiken. At least one other player and a staff member were also subjected to the hazing, according to the lawsuit.
New Mexico State and the two plaintiffs eventually reached a $8 million settlement.
But that doesn’t excuse what Washington allegedly did. Not in the slightest.
He and his accomplices subjected their teammates to not just physical pain or humiliation. They subjected Benjamin, Odunewu and others to verbal abuse and permanent mental trauma.
Of course, these are all simply “allegations” as of now. Washington is innocent as of today.
But let’s be real. An $8 million settlement doesn’t appear out of thin air. New Mexico State wouldn’t have paid that unless it absolutely had to.
Very disappointed in the fan base today. Have we really come to this? Defending someone who has sexually assaulted his teammates? Someone who has his former university forking over 8 million dollars to the victims. Do y’all know how serious that is? There’s a reason he is still…
— Chris (@901chrisl) July 23, 2023
Memphis Shouldn’t Pursue Washington
Not only would Washington be a locker room cancer, but he’d also be a possible threat to his teammates’ safety at any school he enrolls in.
It’d be a complete disgrace for Memphis to even recruit him as long as these allegations stand. If Memphis were to actually sign him, however, it would legitimately put the program’s integrity into question.
It’d arguably be a fireable offense for head coach Penny Hardaway if Washington is let onto the team and goes on to commit more of these alleged acts. Simply put, it’s just not worth the trouble nor the controversy.
It doesn’t matter that Washington is talented.
It doesn’t matter that he’s 6-foot-7 and averaged 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season.
The fact that he would help Memphis on the court next season is irrelevent.
Sexual assault and battery are sexual assault and battery. Plain and simple.
Those are unforgivable offenses, especially in division one athletics. If some lower-level institution wants to give him a second chance, so be it. That’s their prerogative, as misguided as it is.
But at a school like the University of Memphis, or any school for that matter, this behavior cannot—and hopefully will not—be tolerated.