Sexual Assault Survivor and Activist Shares Story with Sports MBA Students

October 13, 2020

Recently, the SDSU Sports MBA program hosted a guest lecture with Brenda Tracy, a gang rape survivor and founder of a non-profit called Set the Expectation, which seeks to combat sexual and physical violence through awareness and education. Tracy’s assault was never adjudicated, and two of the assailants, who were college football players, received only one-game suspensions. Too often, according to Tracy, athletes’ behavior goes unpunished by institutions and coaches, so she now shares her story and the work of her nonprofit frequently with teams of college athletes and athletic departments. She spoke directly to the Sports MBA students and encouraged them to take an active role in making necessary societal changes when they graduate into managerial positions in the sports business world.    

Fowler College of Business marketing professor, Erlinde Cornelis organized the visit in her Sports & Society course as the students explored the topics of the prevalence of rape culture in sports, and the negative impact of “locker room talk.” According to Cornelis, “Microaggressions like locker room talk are not innocent. When left unaddressed, they build-up to the point where such behavior is normalized. When someone repeatedly gets away with this behavior, it erodes the power and humanity of one person, while seemingly justifying the behavior of another. As Tracy pointed out, too, there’s no such thing as an innocent bystander in these cases. Tacit approval is what allows these patterns to persist and grow. The solution starts when we hold each other accountable.” 

Tracy’s advocacy targets the sports world, and in particular, college athletics, because athletes are important leaders on their campuses. College athletes, particularly football and men’s basketball athletes, Tracy posits, have significant influence over the culture of their institutions and their behavior as allies can serve as a model for the broader student body. As she told the Sports MBA students, “The ripple effect that [athletes] have on campus is insane, and that’s how you start a movement.”

Since coming forward publicly about her assault in 2014, Tracy has worked with politicians, coaches, university presidents, athletic conference leaders, and governing bodies like the NCAA to attempt to change laws and policies related to sexual assault. Tracy noted that rape is still not an NCAA violation, and players often transfer schools and often receive immediate eligibility after being found responsible for sexual assault by either university judicial process or a criminal court. 

In 2016, Tracy was asked to serve on the NCAA Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence, a group that asked the NCAA to institute a policy that would strip student-athletes of their eligibility if they committed sexual assault. After the NCAA’s Board of Governors refused to adopt the policy, Tracy took her efforts to the grassroots level, establishing “The Tracy Rule,” an effort to encourage individual universities to take it upon themselves to ban athletes who have past instances of violence, including sexual assault, from representing their universities. To date, of the more than 1,200 schools nationwide who compete in the NCAA, only the University of Texas at San Antonio has adopted the policy for its athletes. 

Tracy has endured near-constant online bullying and victim-blaming and has received death threats in the years after speaking out about her rape. Despite this, she said she is most hurt by the failure of those in power to protect her and provide her with justice. She pointed out to the group that each one of them will be a part of the “they” that we discuss when we say that we “Hope they will support victims of rape or that they will hold rapists accountable for their actions.” They can be part of the problem or the solution.

Speaking to the group of future sports business leaders, including many students who aspire to careers in intercollegiate athletics, Tracy implored the group to push for change in the future and make campuses safer for all students. 

In an emotional plea to the group, Tracy reminded students that, as graduates working in the sports industry, “You will be the ‘they.’ You are in a master’s program. When you are in the industry, find people who will place humanity above all else. We all deserve to live in a world where there is justice. Strength comes in numbers; find like-minded people and work with them to change laws that need to be changed. Vote.”

The Sports MBA program wishes to thank Brenda Tracy for sharing her powerful and important message with the Class of 2021. 

About the SDSU Sports MBA Program:

The SDSU Sports MBA program is an intensive, accelerated MBA degree focused on the dynamic business of international sports. The program provides its graduates with a thorough understanding of the skills crucial for professionals to succeed while building a broad network of relationships in the sports-rich landscape of Southern California. Visit to learn more, request information or apply to the Sports MBA program.

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