Duke to look into 1999 sexual assault allegation

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The sexual assault allegation made recently against a former Duke men’s basketball player is being investigated, the university announced Saturday.

Through a series of statements released through her attorney Friday, Meredith Watson said a former Duke basketball player raped her in 1999. Watson has also said Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her on Duke’s campus in Durham, North Carolina, when they were both students in 2000.

The identity of the men’s basketball player facing the allegation is not known.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said both he and the university understand the severity of the matter.

“I think there was an allegation made, right?” Krzyzewski said after Saturday’s victory over Virginia. “So I’m not sure that’s true or not, but there’s an allegation. I didn’t find out about it until late last night, and I have no knowledge about it. … Our university will take care of whatever actions and give whatever information that’s needed to be done. I think our [athletic director] has put out a statement that we’ll give to you. It’s very … something like that is serious. So our school looks at it that way, and we’ll do whatever we can to make sure that we answer whatever questions are posed to us.”

The school distributed a statement after Saturday’s game at Virginia, detailing its intent to investigate the claims.

“Duke first learned of the allegations involving a student-athlete last night when they were reported by the media,” the statement said. “Coach Krzyzewski confirms that he had no knowledge of the alleged conduct from 1999. The university is looking into the matter and will have no further comment at this time.”

The 1998-99 Duke team was one of the most talented and highly touted team’s in school history. The squad lost to Connecticut in the national title game that season.

“Ms. Watson was raped by a basketball player during her sophomore year at Duke,” a portion of Watson’s statement read. “She went to the Dean, who provided no help and discouraged her from pursuing the claim further. Ms. Watson also told friends, including Justin Fairfax.”

Watson is the second woman to allege that Fairfax, who has been urged by leaders to step down, sexually assaulted her. The allegations against Fairfax are attached to one of the most turbulent weeks in the history of Virginia politics. Gov. Ralph Northam admitted to wearing blackface after a racially incendiary photo in his medical school yearbook surfaced. The state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, has also admitted to donning blackface in the past.

Northam has refused to step down, despite demands from his peers and adversaries who want him to leave his post.

Fairfax was expected to succeed Northam if he’d decided to step down.

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