Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:


Nov. 22

The Advocate on a former Louisiana State University football player who admitted in court to hitting his girlfriend:

The tough challenge to LSU and its vaunted athletic department, so important to Louisiana and the university, is about more than whether rules were violated or procedures were not followed.

A star wide receiver admitted to hitting his girlfriend, also a university athlete, in a text message to a senior executive of the department.

And nothing, from the record, appears to have happened.

We don’t see a lot of shades of gray here: That the situation should have been followed up, beyond the male athlete retracting his text, is obvious.

The moral questions raised ought to be addressed, beyond just the legalities.

The story reported in this newspaper Thursday suggests that football player Drake Davis appears to have been increasingly violent in the relationship. There were multiple ways that the female athlete engaged with health care, athletics trainers and ultimately, through the male athlete’s text, to Verge Ausberry, executive deputy director of athletics.

We cannot, nor should anyone, rush to judgment about culpability of the university. LSU has engaged a law firm to investigate the allegations, first raised in a USA Today report. There are inevitably going to be issues raised that are not yet on the public record.

But what’s on the record is damaging, far beyond what police actions or potential legal liability of the university are concerned.

Ausberry is a highly respected figure at LSU and in the state’s leadership. He did not hide his role but told our reporters that he immediately contacted Davis about the text, was told it was not the truth and took the young athlete at his word.

Was that a mistake? Certainly.

Ausberry said he was unaware of the indications of violence in the relationship until months later in 2018, after police investigated an incident and eventually booked Davis. We do not doubt Ausberry’s good intentions, that in retrospect he felt misled by Davis, but there are numerous ways his inaction, a sin of omission, violated university protocols.

The female athlete involved said that she felt betrayed by coaches and the university, although the team’s coaches deny that they knew of the problem.

These problems can and must be the subject of searching inquiry. And that should include whether a culture of protection of student athletes — or at least in this case, football players — was or is the underlying reality of life at LSU.

Eventually, the system worked, after a fashion. Davis was expelled, although a state district judge suspended most of the 18-month prison sentence for the young man.

But it did not work very well. The gap between policies and actions seems very wide.



Nov. 21

Houma Courier/The Daily Comet on practicing coronavirus safety guidelines during Thanksgiving:

Widespread warnings from health officials who are asking residents across the state and nation to refrain from large family gatherings on Thanksgiving may sound like overkill but they are not.

It’s actually the same, consistent message health officials and public officials who base their decisions on the best science available have espoused since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March.

“All along, there have been issues about attending weddings, funerals, religious gatherings and other events that are part of our normal life,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, told USA Today last month. “They bring people together and potentially become vectors for the virus. As many public health experts mention, the virus is attending these events and can be transmitted from person to person.”

Thanksgiving is one such event, and it comes at a time Terrebonne, Lafourche and most of the country deal with a rising number of COVID infections, deaths and hospitalizations. While Terrebonne and Lafourche both have positivity rates below 10%, the rates have been on the rise for the past couple of weeks locally and across the state.

The Louisiana Health Department made its recommendations clear in a statement Friday.

“LDH has identified an increased number of outbreaks and cases associated with small social gatherings — happy hours, game nights and family dinners. The public should keep this in mind with less than a week until Thanksgiving,” the agency said. “Wear a mask. Social distance. Wash your hands often. Take any small gathering outdoors. We know these simple public health measures work when we all take them to heart. ”

Sound familiar? It should because it’s the same message you’ve heard for months from the state Health Department, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. John Bel Edwards, local parish presidents and many others charged with leading efforts to prevent the deadly virus’s spread.

The CDC and members of the White House task force also suggest that Americans refrain from holiday travel unless absolutely necessary.

“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC says in its specific recommendations for the holiday. “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”

Even people who have decided that masks and social distancing are unnecessary have good reason to follow these recommendations. How bad would it be, for instance, if someone in your family who is more vulnerable than you -- for instance, an elderly father, mother or grandparent -- got severely ill or died from a coronavirus infection they got at your Thanksgiving gathering?

“I know there will be plenty of families who mock this kind of advice and say, ’That’s ridiculous. We’re going to get together and enjoy Thanksgiving like it’s supposed to be, and no one’s going to tell us otherwise,’” Woolf said in that same USA Today story. “That may give them a sense of independence, but then the virus gets to Grandma, and she ends up in the hospital on a ventilator, and then you live with the guilt.”

In 2020, it’s just as important to have a safe Thanksgiving as it is to have a happy one.



Nov. 21

The Advocate on recent statements made by Republican lawmakers on U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond's upcoming role as a White House advisor:

Our politics in Washington and Baton Rouge seem to get uglier every year, but one place where leaders work collegially is the Louisiana congressional delegation.

Credit goes to all of our members, including the lone Democrat, Cedric Richmond, who represents New Orleans and portions of Baton Rouge and the River Parishes.

So Richmond’s Republican colleagues might have been more gracious in congratulating him on his new posting as a senior aide to President-elect Joe Biden.

The Republicans offered a kind word, but they clung to President Donald Trump’s fiction that the 2020 election remains undecided.

In a generally effusive statement, Rep. Garret Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican, waxed about their productive partnership and said Richmond’s departure would create a “void in our delegation” — but threw in a caveat.

“Pending election results,” Graves’ statement said, “Cedric could land a spot in the West Wing with extreme proximity to the Oval Office.”

U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, of Jefferson, a personal friend of Richmond, said “I’ll miss him in the House,” but added, “There’s still recounts going on.”

“Recognizing there are court challenges still taking place, that said, I am very pleased for Cedric,” offered U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, fresh off a reelection in which he got 1.2 million votes.

What a cowardly crowd. All three got a greater share of the vote than Trump. Their voters know that the nation has decided, even if Louisiana’s candidate did not prevail.

They should show more respect to Rep. Richmond and to their constituents.