Rasheed Sulaimon speaks, says he’s never sexually assaulted anyone

Rasheed Sulaimon was kicked off Duke’s team at the end of January. (USATSI)

Former Duke shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon is speaking out publicly for the first time since his dismissal from the team in late January. He’s also addressed allegations — two of them — from women who claim Sulaimon sexually assaulted them while he was at Duke.

In a story by ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman, Sulaimon outright denies those claims and flatly says he’s never sexually abused anyone in his life. He also said him being kicked off the team had nothing to do with the incident(s) in question.

“Me being dismissed from the team had nothing to do with this allegation,” Sulaimon told ESPN.com. “I have never sexually assaulted, not only anyone on the Duke campus, but anyone period. It’s not in my nature at all. I have great respect for the role of women in society. I would never demean or do anything to a woman in this manner. No, I’ve never done anything like this in my life.”

The allegations stem from a report in late February from Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle. Subsequent to The Chronicle’s story being published, Duke athletic director Kevin White said the school properly handled/handles all allegations of sexual assault, and that it is on the school and its Office of Student Conduct, not the athletic department or a head coach, to navigate such matters.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski never went into the specifics of the Sulaimon case, citing student privacy laws. He remains mum on the issue. The incidents in question were alleged to have happened while Sulaimon was a freshman. Neither alleged victim reported Sulaimon; they came about while being discussed on school-run retreats.

By definitively putting this on record, Sulaimon opened up questions to the alternative, that something else he did triggered his dismissal. He still will not disclose what that was. Sulaimon’s banishment became the first instance in Krzyewski’s career where he removed a player from his team. At the time, Krzyzewski said this in a press release, “Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program.”

More from Goodman’s story:

“The university investigated the sexual assault allegation, and they knew it was unsubstantiated so Coach K knew that, too, because I told him,” Sulaimon said.

Sulaimon said he met with a representative of the Office of Student Conduct during the winter of his sophomore year regarding an alleged sexual assault allegation that occurred the previous year. He said he was told an investigation was ongoing, and he would have to go in front of the student board if it progressed. Sulaimon told ESPN he was never asked to appear in front of the student board, but did meet a second time in September 2014 regarding the same allegation. Sulaimon said he has never met with anyone at the Office of Student Conduct regarding a second allegation.

“This whole time I’ve been told about one allegation and I have no idea where the second allegation came from,” Sulaimon said. “It’s false. It’s purely fiction [that there’s even a second allegation].”

Sulaimon remained a student at Duke after being removed from the team. He is on pace to graduate this summer and has been courted by a number of major-conference programs to play next season, when he’ll be eligible for one final year of D-I competition.

A McDonald’s All-American coming into college, Sulaimon’s career trajectory has been jagged. He was a pro prospect heading into Duke and even after his freshman season, but the past two years have seen his playing time and reputation diminish, emphatically coming to a head with his ousting on Jan. 29.

The story also states Krzyzewski and Sulaimon have not seen each other since late January, but that Coach K has thrice texted Sulaimon, all amid Duke’s run to the national title. As Duke won a fifth championship earlier this month, Sulaimon was back in Durham, watching the game with friends. He celebrated and then, as he admits in the ESPN.com article, later cried over his regrets for blowing his chance to be there.

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