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Aug. 13 2009 - 12:14 pm | 26 views | 1 recommendation | 1 comment

Rick Pitino and Abortion Politics

Pitino coaching the Louisville Cardinals

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Rick Pitino is old school. He behaved exactly like so many rich and powerful men involved in an affair would have in a bygone era. When his mistress told him she was pregnant, he gave her some money to “take care of it”.

Pitino told police last month he had consensual sex with Karen Cunagin Sypher at a Louisville restaurant in 2003. They met again several weeks later, when he says she revealed she was pregnant and planned to have an abortion, but did not have health insurance.

When the married father of five asked Sypher how much money she needed for insurance, she said $3,000, which Pitino gave her. Pitino’s attorney, Steve Pence, said Pitino did not think the money was for an abortion.

via Pitino’s reputation sullied by admitted affair » Evansville Courier & Press .

Does anyone believe, even for one second, that Pitino actually thought he was giving her $3,000 for health insurance? He may have been attempting to purchase affair insurance for himself, but there’s very little doubt Pitino knew, whether it was stated or not, that Sypher would use that money for an abortion. It wouldn’t be surprising if they used every euphemism in the book and the word abortion never actually came up, giving Slick Rick plausible deniability, but it is highly unlikely a ruthless recruiter like Pitino would be that naive. However the most interesting piece of this story has been the reaction of  both the media and the public, which reflect a conservative view of abortion.

This morning on Mike & Mike, like thousands of sports talk shows across the country, they discussed how Pitino’s actions would effect his program, specifically recruiting.  They essentially argued whether Pitino’s scandal or a coach photographed drinking and partying with coeds like Larry Eustachy would be worse for their respective programs. Mike Greenberg, supporting Pitino, was overwhelmed by the other two guests. But he made an adjustment that got to the true heart of people’s shock, he asked them to consider the situation “if there were no abortion”. Mike Golic and Eric Cassilias immediately changed their views and agreed that without the abortion, Pitino’s scandal wasn’t nearly as bad. This is where an editor for a reality show would insert the stock screeching record sound effect. The message being sent by Mike & Mike and the majority of sports radio hosts and columnists is that we can accept infidelity but abortion unquestionably makes Pitino’s situation more scandalous.

This cannot sit well with the Pro-Choice crowd, who have created a perception that abortion was an issue that only the fundamentalist fringe opposed. In my mind, the situation was always presented as being relatively even in terms of support. Apparently that is not the case, as nearly every news outlet carrying this story has highlighted the abortion as the seedy underbelly of the story. Do the majority of Americans actually oppose abortion or are sports fans more conservative? Does this controversy just frame it in the wrong context? Does anyone even realize that the subtext of the coverage of Pitino’s affair may reinforce anti-abortion sentiment or perhaps even create it?

As someone who attempts to recognize the legitimacy of both camps in the debate, I ultimately think the issue is much more complex than either side would admit. In fact, I think the biggest issue is that discussion itself is presented improperly (Pro-life v. Pro-choice). But my stance doesn’t really matter. After observing the visceral reaction to this story, I now think we have an accurate read on what many American’s really believe, without any PC pressure to influence them.


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  1. collapse expand

    I think a couple of things are at issue here. One is his geographic location in the “Bible belt.” Kentucky is heavy Baptist territory, so it’s probably both the infidelity and the abortion. Also, he’s married with 5 kids, so that plays into how the situation is perceived, as well. Finally, the multiple books on “Success in Business and Life” probably don’t help much either. It’s a sad situation for everyone involved.

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