According to a recent report by Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Portland Trail Blazers may have falsely claimed that they investigated new head coach Chauncey Billups’ troubling past before hiring him.
Billups was accused of sexual assault in 1997, although no charges were filed.
“OPB attempted to retrace the team’s investigation into Billups,” wrote Conrad Wilson and Tony Schick. “While the events of that November 1997 night remain in dispute, OPB found a number of basic steps the Trail Blazers do not appear to have taken in their review. The team declined to answer any of OPB’s questions about the thoroughness and intent of its investigation.
“The team’s review did not obtain information directly from several primary sources, including the accuser.
‘”It’s news to us that they conducted an investigation,’ said Margaret A. Burnham, attorney for Jane Doe.
“Burnham, a law professor and director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern School of Law in Boston, represented Doe in the 1998 federal civil lawsuit against Billups and three other men, two of whom were teammates. Burnham said she remains Doe’s attorney 23 years later and that ‘we stand by the allegations.'”
This is the newest development in a rocky chapter for the Trail Blazers. It had been reported that the organization hired a former FBI investigator to look into the matter, but that is certainly now in question.
The report went on to explain that retracing the case is a difficult task, as many key figures from the 1997 situation are either deceased or in poor health.
“Retracing the 1997 case involves many roadblocks,” Wilson and Schick continued. “One of Doe’s attorneys, a Harvard University law professor, has Alzheimer’s disease. One of the defendants’ attorneys on the case is dead. Another said he hasn’t spoken to Billups in years and also said he wasn’t contacted as part of any investigation by the Trail Blazers.
“‘I’m the only lawyer standing in this case,’ said Burnham, who was recently nominated by President Joe Biden to the Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board, which aims to help solve murders, such as lynchings and other racially motivated killings, from the Civil Rights Era.
“Burnham refused to discuss Doe’s allegations against Billups and the other players and said neither she nor her client was interested in being drawn into the case again.”
The Trail Blazers likely did not anticipate such a mess when they hired Billups, and it seems possible that the organization would have thought twice about going through with the hire had it known the stir that it was going to cause.
Portland was eliminated from the 2021 NBA Playoffs in the first round. The future appears to be an uncertain one for the franchise.