SEC Student-Athlete was Abused then Betrayed by LSU
Welcome to Season 10, Episode 7, of the ParentingAces Podcast, part of the Tennis Channel Podcast Network.
Before I go any further, please know this episode contains graphic descriptions of violence toward a female college tennis player as described by her father. Please use discretion when listening or viewing in the presence of children.
I highly encourage you to watch the video version of this week’s podcast which you can find here:
In January of 2017, Jade Lewis arrived on the LSU campus to begin her life as a college student and member of the LSU Women’s Tennis Team. After sitting at the top of the Junior Rankings for her recruiting class on TennisRecruiting.net, she was offered a full scholarship and an agreement that, if she played on the LSU Women’s Tennis Team for at least one semester, she could pursue a professional career then return to complete her degree at LSU at a later date at no cost to her. It was a great offer that aligned with Jade’s dreams of becoming a professional tennis player.
Just a few short weeks later, Jade’s dream turned into a nightmare. She had formed a relationship with a member of LSU’s football team, a relationship that would prove dangerous and threatening to Jade’s physical and emotional health.
In May of 2017, Jade reported to the LSU Women’s Tennis Athletic Trainer that this football player had physically assaulted her. Presumably, Jade assumed the athletic trainer would follow NCAA protocol and file a report with his superiors as well as LSU’s Title IX Officer as required by law. However, it now appears that did not happen.
In this week’s podcast (again, I urge you to watch the video version), you will hear Jade’s father, David Lewis, explain how the violence perpetrated against Jade by the LSU football player escalated while the LSU Women’s Tennis Coaches and other athletic and academic staff who knew about it sat by and did nothing to protect Jade nor punish the football player. You will hear details of the violent incidents and the frustration of a parent helpless to rescue his daughter. Below is a timeline of events as they unfolded as well as a list of media articles investigating these events.
My hope is you will watch this podcast, read through the timeline and articles, then do whatever you can to help us prevent anything remotely resembling these incidents from ever happening again.
Our plan is to do another podcast with Title IX and Clery Act experts to help all of us understand the federal laws put in place to protect college students.
That some students still fall through the cracks of these laws is inconceivable, especially when it involves violence against those same students.
That the perpetrators of the violence are permitted to not only remain on campus but also continue to receive scholarship money and compete on athletic teams is appalling.
That the Tennis Coaches themselves did not protect their player is unfathomable.
That the Athletic Department and University employees who were aware of the abuse – and did not report it through proper channels nor ensure the safety of the victims – have not been held accountable goes against all reason.
ParentingAces will continue to inform parents and is working to establish better systems to protect our children on college campuses.
Note: ParentingAces reached out to the LSU Women’s Tennis Coaches for comment and an opportunity to come on the podcast. The coaches have not responded to us. Mike and Julia Sell are still the LSU Women’s Tennis Co-Head Coaches as of publication.
Timeline of Events (as provided by David Lewis)
May 14, 2017: Jade returns to LSU from Berkeley, CA where she had traveled with the LSU Women’s Tennis Team to compete in the NCAA Division I Regional Tournament. The LSU team was eliminated from the tournament, but Jade and one other LSU teammate qualified to play in the NCAA Division I Women’s Individual Tournament in Athens, GA.
May 14-18, 2017: Upon returning from Berkeley, Jade Lewis informs her Athletic Trainer that a member of the LSU football team assaulted her during this 5-day period (the exact date of the assault is unknown). The Athletic Trainer does not report Jade’s assault to LSU’s Title IX office as required by law nor does he report it to law enforcement.
May 21, 2017: Jade leaves Baton Rouge to travel to Athens, GA. She has completed classes for the semester. The NCAA Individual Tournament is set for May 24-29. Jade’s parents are on site in Athens for the Championships and meet the trainer as well as the Women’s Tennis Coaches. None of them alert the parents to what their daughter has reported.
June 2017: Jade turns pro.
June-August 2017: The Women’s Tennis Coaches are under investigation by the NCAA for violations of Level 3 and Level 4 NCAA rules. LSU self-imposes penalties (see LSU self-imposes penalties on women’s tennis program resulting from Level III violations below).
Mid June 2017: David Lewis informs the Women’s Tennis Coach of Jade’s toxic relationship with the football player.
July 2017: Jade officially announces she has turned pro. The Women’s Tennis Coach tells David Lewis that even though Jade has turned pro, she could still return to LSU and play on the Women’s Tennis Team for the 2017-2018 season.
July 25, 2017: David Lewis becomes aware of the football player’s May 2017 assault on Jade and informs the Women’s Tennis Coach. The Women’s Tennis Coach does not report the assault to LSU’s Title IX office as required by law nor to law enforcement.
September 2017: The LSU Women’s Tennis Coaches are in contact with Jade, telling her she may still be eligible to play on the team and encouraging her to return to LSU.
February 2018: Jade stops playing on the ITF Pro Circuit after playing Fed Cup for New Zealand. She returns to Hilton Head to stay with her parents, then Jade makes a decision to continue with her studies at LSU despite her parents urging her not to return to Baton Rouge and fearing for her safety.
March 15, 2018: Jade re-enrolls at LSU and physically arrives on campus where the Women’s Tennis Coaches tell her she is possibly still eligible to play on the team. They tell Jade they’re checking with her sponsors and the NCAA.
April 3, 2018: The football player punches Jade and breaks her ribs.
On this same date, the LSU Compliance Office and an LSU attorney call Jade’s New Zealand sponsors asking for information relating to Jade’s NCAA eligibility. LSU Compliance then ask the NCAA whether Jade and another player are still eligible to play. Some time during April or May of 2018, the NCAA deem Jade and the other player both ineligible.
April 14, 2018: The football player sends a text message to the LSU Executive Deputy Director of Athletics notifying him he (the football player) punched Jade and it’s bad. He also says Jade wants to go to compliance. The Executive Deputy Director of Athletics asks if it is “the tennis player”. The Executive Deputy Director of Athletics does not report the assault to LSU’s Title IX office as required by law nor to law enforcement.
April 25, 2018: Jade sees a medical doctor because she’s in severe pain. The doctor evaluates her fractured ribs. The Athletic Trainer (referenced above) records the evaluation in the LSU computer. The Athletic Trainer and his boss report to the LSU Senior Associate Athletic Director that it was definitely the football player who assaulted Jade. Jade is also present and informs the Senior Associate Athletic Director that this is the second time the football player has assaulted her. Jade tells the Senior Associate Athletic Director of the first assault in May 2017.
The Senior Associate Athletic Director makes a Title IX report ONLY OF THE APRIL 3,2018 ASSAULT BUT NOT THE MAY 2017 ASSAULT and does not report the assaults to law enforcement.
May 21, 2018: A Title IX investigation commences at LSU of the April 3, 2018 incident. The investigation does not include the May 2017 incident.
June 18, 2018: Jade’s roommate, a member of the LSU Women’s Volleyball Team, calls the Volleyball coach and reports that the football player is assaulting Jade by strangling her and ripping an earring from her ear. The Volleyball coach tells the roommate to call the police. The LSU Police Department had not been informed – by the LSU Athletics Staff or by Jade herself – prior to this call that the football player had previously assaulted Jade. This is the date the LSU Women’s Tennis Coaches claim they first heard of any assaults against Jade. Jade was scheduled to play a Professional event hosted on the LSU campus this same day. The LSU Women’s Tennis Coaches do not take Jade for a medical examination despite strangulation marks on her neck. Nor do the Coaches or anyone else from LSU reach out to Jade’s parents to inform them of what’s happened to their daughter.
After LSU General Counsel are informed of the strangulation incident, a textbook investigation is conducted with the District Attorney’s Office, LSU’s Title IX office, and the Dean of Students (as stated by then-LSU’s General Counsel lawyer when questioned by a reporter in December 2020).
Even after the conclusion of the textbook investigation, the football player remains on the football team.
July 11, 2018: The LSU Football Wide Receiver Coach escorts the football player to an interview with the LSU Associate Dean and Director of Student Advocacy and Accountability where the football player denies any physical assault including attempted strangulation. He claims only a verbal argument took place between Jade and himself on June 18, 2018.
July 25, 2018: Jade’s roommate informs LSU’s Associate Dean of Students of the physical abuse being perpetrated against Jade by the football player. Jade is then interviewed by the Associate Dean of Students.
August 17, 2018: The football player is arrested for his attacks on Jade and is subsequently released on bond and allowed back on the LSU campus with a no-contact order. The football player has not been released from the team but has been temporarily suspended.
August 18, 2018: David Lewis and his wife read about the football player’s arrest in the newspaper.
August 19, 2018: David Lewis and his wife fly to Baton Rouge.
August 22, 2108: LSU Women’s Tennis Coaches, when interviewed by a police detective, claim they didn’t know of any abuse against Jade prior to June 18, 2018.
August 27, 2018: A police detective calls the LSU Athletic Trainer to question him about the reported incidents against Jade. The Athletic Trainer says he wrote the doctor’s April 25, 2018 evaluation of Jade into an electronic document and into the computer.
September 10, 2018: The football player’s roommate informs the LSU General Counsel and police that the football player is abusing Jade. He has violated the terms of his bond. He is not arrested again.
October 10, 2018: The police detective calls the Athletic Trainer for another interview. The Athletic Trainer denies having recorded Jade’s medical evaluation from April 25, 2018 even though he claimed to have recorded the evaluation during his August 27 interview with the detective.
February 5, 2021: The US Department of Education launches an investigation into LSU’s compliance with federal campus safety laws.
Excerpt from September 11, 2018 Interview with LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, Joe Alleva
LSUSports.com: To pivot to a more serious topic, nationally, we’ve seen several high-profile athletic departments and universities run into major legal and moral crises involving allegations of abuse. What steps is LSU Athletics taking to make sure its student-athletes, coaches, and staff are working in safe, secure environments?
Joe Alleva: The first thing we’ve done – we started this three years ago – we have mandatory education for all of our athletes, all of our coaches, all of our student workers, everyone involved with athletics has mandatory training on how to handle any kind of abuse they see. Each year you attend, you actually receive more advanced training, so it’s a progressive process. Our student-athletes are the most educated students on this subject by far.
We’ve created a committee, too. Sometimes athletes don’t want to go their coach and say there’s a problem. So we’ve created a committee of people, neutral sort of people, that our athletes know they can go to and confide in, no matter what the situation is. They can go to any one of a very diverse group of people who they feel comfortable talking to.
It all comes down to education and kids not being afraid to report things. We try to create an environment where they can tell us what they need to tell us, and we can handle it the right way. Most schools get in trouble when they don’t handle something the right way. Problems are going to happen. Things are going to happen at schools, everywhere. The problem is when it’s not handled the right way. We take great pride in making sure we do handle it the right way. If there is a problem, the most important thing is that problem is reported to the proper authorities, not athletics. That’s where a lot of programs go wrong too – they try to handle it in house. We don’t do that.