August 12, 2009
After last night's drastic report -- wherein Rick Pitino admitted to police that he paid Karen Sypher $3,000 for an abortion after having consensual sex with her on a restaurant floor (really, this whole story screams "class") -- most thought Pitino's job, at least, was safe. There is little criminal worry to be had here. If the sex was consensual, there's no crime against giving a woman money for an abortion. It just happens to be a really awful thing to do, the sort of thing a self-appointed leader like Pitino should probably not choose to do. After all, success is a choice, right?
But when the dust cleared this morning, the Louisville Courier-Journal (which is absolutely killing this story) has this news: Pitino's contract actually contains a morality clause, which can be summed up as such:
Disparaging media publicity of a material nature that damages the good name and reputation of Employer or University, if such publicity is caused by Employee's willful misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring Employee into public disrepute or scandal, or which tends to greatly offend the public, or any class thereof on the basis of invidious distinction.
Employee's dishonesty with Employer or University; or acts of moral depravity; or conviction of a felony or employment or drug-related misdemeanor; or intoxication or being under the influence of a psychoactive substance when performing duties under this contract, when student athletes are present, when attending scheduled public events or appearances, or during media contacts.
Not only are those terms vague and pretty easy for a university admin to wriggle through, there are about five different moral requirements you could argue Pitino isn't making there. I'd say committing adultery and paying a woman for an abortion is tantamount to "willful misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring Employee into public disrepute or scandal." Or also see "which tends to greatly offend the public," or even "moral depravity." Cut and dry: these apply to Pitino's situation under any objective appraisal, do they not?
Pitino's job could still be safe; maybe the university will cut him some slack and forget all these pesky morality clauses lodged in his contract. But if public sentiment grows too loud -- and you can imagine how "adultery + abortion" plays in red-state Kentucky -- Louisville can act to rid themselves of Pitino's mess.