With pick number 89, the Colts drafted linebacker Bobby Okereke out of Stanford in the 2019 draft. The early comparisons for Okereke, in terms of his athletic profile, were to first-year standout Darius Leonard. They have similar athletic profiles and measurables.
What’s more, Okereke is the kind of player the Colts have consistently looked for in terms of character. An Eagle Scout and team captain at Stanford, Okereke even had an internship for former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. All of this speaks to a history of good character and leadership.
So when a tip came across our news desk at Stampede Blue about Okereke’s possible involvement in a 2015 sexual assault cause, we had to weigh very carefully how to report it. These cases are always tough, because we bring our own experiences and perspectives to the story, even when we try to provide unbiased reporting. Sexual assault is a very serious issue, and claiming to be an organization that values character puts you in the spotlight when things like this come up.
Okereke’s history as a high-character player certainly doesn’t make him impervious to such an act. You can’t acquit someone of a charge simply because they haven’t done anything like it before. However, a track record that stands in stark contrast to such an allegation prompts a close look at the source and accusations.
Those accusations come from The Fountain Hopper, an anonymous email-based student publication which serves Stanford University, where Okereke attended and played football. In it, they allege that Okereke was the player written about in a New York Times story detailing a case where an unnamed Stanford football player was accused of sexual assault and brought before the school’s in-house disciplinary board. The Colts confirmed this with Chris Ballard’s conference call today.
Colts GM Chris Ballard just completed a quick update with beat reporters re: the revelation that 3rd rd pick Bobby Okereke was the Stanford player accused of sexual assault in 2015. Okereke was not charged and he personally informed the Colts of the matter prior to the draft— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) June 5, 2019
In that story, 3 of 5 panelists concluded that the football player who we now know was Bobby Okereke had committed sexual assault. However, Stanford’s system in place requires a 4-1 ruling to determine guilt of a suspect, instead of a simple majority. In short, Okereke was determined not to be guilty by means of the standards set forth by the university’s investigative process. There was not a criminal investigation in this case, so the internal investigation and subsequent appeal acted as the final word on the player’s innocence.
Beyond anonymous tips and speculation, the Fountain Hopper article does not provide any details which clearly indicate a serious miscarriage of justice. While it is certainly possible that additional information is out there, working with what we have simply doesn’t provide adequate information to condemn Okereke. What results is a he said/she said situation in which we don’t have real answers, just emotional responses fueled by people who have been on both sides of that argument or who have vested interests there.
Without actual concrete evidence one way or the other, it is tough to come down on either side and confidently say it is right. The Colts did their best to be as educated as possible about the situation prior to the draft, and felt comfortable enough in their findings to make the selection.