Why ex-NFL player Shareece Wright went public with allegations he was sexually assaulted by Tiffany Strauss

Shareece Wright, a former NFL player, went from anonymous plaintiff to public figure Friday after sharing with ESPN his account of being sexually assaulted in high school by a female athletic trainer. Then he addressed his decision to speak out.

“I was worried about what people would say, or how people would try to portray it,’’ Wright, 36, told USA TODAY Sports. “The narrative that we were boys and it’s not that big of a deal or is not that serious bothers me, like, the most.’’

By coming forward, Wright said, he is “trying to change the narrative that when you’re a boy and you’re being molested by a female it’s not serious or it doesn’t affect your life or it’s not that bad.’’

Shareece Wright during his time with the Buffalo Bills in 2017.
Shareece Wright during his time with the Buffalo Bills in 2017.

In a story published by ESPN Friday, Wright identified himself as one of 12 anonymous plaintiffs who in a civil lawsuit say they were sexually assaulted when they were minors attending Colton High School in Southern California. The woman who sexually assaulted them, according to the lawsuit, was Tiffany Strauss, the daughter of the team's since-deceased head coach who at the time was in her early 20s.

The age of consent in California is 18, and the Colton Joint Unified School District along with Tiffany Strauss are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.

The alleged sexual assault of Wright began when he was a sophomore in 2003 and escalated the following year, according to the lawsuit. He and Strauss had sexual intercourse at least 15 times during dinners for the team captains that were hosted by the head coach, Harold Strauss, the lawsuit says. Harold Strauss died in 2019.

On Friday, Wright told USA TODAY Sports the alleged sexual assault has negatively impacted his romantic relationships with women.

“Just searching for that sexual high that I would get when I had these sexual encounters with (the athletic trainer) at a young age,’’ Wright said. “It was years of me chasing it and not being able to find it.’’

Shareece Wright says his relationships suffered

Wright, who played cornerback in the NFL from 2011 to 2018, said he’s seeing a therapist twice a week to help him overcome the effects of the alleged sexual assault.

“I just got off the phone with my therapist not even an hour ago talking about it,’’ Wright said early Friday afternoon. “It takes time to understand what sexual abuse does to people when it happens to them.’’

Looking back, Wright said, chasing a sexual high he experienced with the former athletic trainer made it difficult to connect with other women.

“I feel like maybe I would be married at this point (if) that didn’t happen to me,’’ said Wright, the father of two sons, 10 and 2. “And I wouldn’t have such a sexual drive in a sense and just respect my body and other women’s bodies more.’’

Wright said he hopes speaking out will help, too.

“I’m just doing whatever I can to help other people and help myself,’’ he said. “You know, help me come to terms with it and understand what happened to me and how it affected my life.

“Because a lot of the time I really didn’t understand how it affected me. Things just didn’t seem right at the time and my mentality and my mindset and the way I viewed women and viewed relationships and the things I have endured and really didn’t understand why.’’

What police video shows

Attorneys for Strauss, now known as Tiffany Strauss-Gordon, did not provide USA TODAY Sports with a comment on behalf of their client.

But ESPN obtained a police video from 2022 that shows the former athletic trainer, 42, denying having had any inappropriate or sexual relationships with the football players at Colton between 2002 and 2008.

Strauss-Gordon, when asked during the video why anybody would make such allegations, responded, “Why do you file a lawsuit? For money."

The Colton Police Department did not respond to a request for comment regarding the allegations against Strauss-Gordon.

ESPN reported that the San Bernardino District Attorney's office said it did not file charges against Strauss-Gordon because of a lack of sufficient evidence.

Wright said he was hurt by Strauss-Gordon’s response on the police video.

“It’s not about money,’’ he said. “This is a school and a school district who neglected kids and neglected us and they didn’t do enough to protect us and they allowed it to happen.’’

During his NFL career that included four seasons with the Chargers and stints with five other teams, Wright earned more than $12 million, according to He said he currently works as a trainer near his home in Moreno Valley.

Former NFL player Allen Bradford, who played with Wright at Colton High School, said he did not have an inappropriate relationship with Strauss-Gordon. But he said five or six of his high school teammates, including Wright, told him of the sexual encounters when they attended Colton.

“I can remember kids telling stories," Bradford said. “It was just wild.’’

Although he never witnessed anything, Bradford said, he believes Wright and the other plaintiffs, adding, “Ain’t nobody to go this deep and go this far’’ if it’s not true.

'You knew what you were doing'

Before graduating from Colton High School in 2006, Wright said, he told adults he was prepared to speak out about the allegations against Strauss-Gordon.

Said Wright, “Their first response was, like, ‘You guys are boys. You knew what you were doing. She’s going to lose her job and so many people’s jobs are going to be (on) the line.’

“This is the feedback I was getting from people that I thought cared about me.’’

An initial lawsuit was filed in 2022. Wright, then one of six anonymous plaintiffs that grew to 12, said he recalls reading comments online such as, ‘You guys are lucky,’ or wondering why former Colton football players were “snitching’’ on themselves all these years later.

Morgan Stewart, an attorney representing Wright, said his client is in a rare class by virtue of being a Black man who's also a former professional athlete.

“It’s very rare the percentage that you see of males, African American males and professional athletes coming forward’’ as victims of alleged sexual assault, Stewart said.

Wright considered the dynamics.

“I can only imagine how many athletes and African American athletes who are in high school and they’re the stars on the team and they’re receiving these quote unquote special privileges and things like that,'' he said. "I’m definitely speaking up for everyone who it happened to and everybody who it could happen to.’’

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why ex-NFL player went public with allegations he was sexually assaulted