Editorial note: This is a freelance article from a contributor. If you’re interested in writing for us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your pitch. The author can be reached @velodus. Some of his previous work can be found here. This story contains references to sexual assault. If you are in need, the National Sexual Assault hotline can be reached at 1-800-656-4673.
If you haven’t been paying close attention to the Golden State Warriors, you might not know about the unsettling decision they recently made regarding Anthony Lamb. On March 17, the Warriors extended Lamb – who had been called up from their G League affiliate earlier in the season – to a regular contract, meaning that he is now a full-time, guaranteed member of their roster. Lamb, who’s 25 and in his third season in the NBA, has been a useful bench cog for a Warriors team that has struggled to find consistency from their supporting cast.
More importantly however, Lamb has also been formally accused of rape during the season, from a former girlfriend who claimed that he sexually assaulted her at his house back in 2019 when they were at the University of Vermont. And if you haven’t heard much about that claim, it’s understandable, because the story of an NBA player on the league’s most high profile team being linked to rape has somehow been an afterthought, not just in the NBA but in the world of sports as a whole.
The specifics of the allegations are horrific. The woman making them, Kendall Ware, has claimed that Lamb violated her even after she repeatedly pleaded for him to stop; that the incident left her so shattered that it altered her personality and made her contemplate suicide; that when she went to UVM for assistance, the school was not only unhelpful in assisting her but purposefully dissuaded her from seeking proper legal help so as to protect Lamb, who was a star basketball player for them at the time; and that she decided not to go further in pursuing legal action against Lamb out of fear that it would only result in her being ostracized. Ware made these claims public last December in a civil suit filed with two other former students, who are all accusing the university of blatantly ignoring sexual assault concerns and placing women in an unsafe environment.
Lamb, while being identified in that suit, is not a defendant in it and has publicly denied that he did anything wrong. The Warriors, too, have stated that they did their due diligence in investigating Lamb before signing him and that they found no reason not for him to be on the roster. The thoroughness of that investigation was undercut, though, by Ware’s attorney, who stated in March that the team made no attempt to reach out to her or her client, saying, “I can tell you that they have not contacted me. They have not contacted Kendall.”
Needless to say, all of this is extremely disturbing, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the overwhelming majority of people who’d take the time to read the lawsuit naming Lamb would come away believing that he shouldn’t be on the Warriors right now.
In a world where the percentage of false rape charges is extraordinarily low, it’s not only that Ware had an established connection with Lamb and named a plethora of officials at her university who could if nothing else establish if she’s been making these charges for years, it’s that Lamb himself is hardly an indispensable talent. He’s averaging 6.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game this year, numbers that can be replicated by any number of people who aren’t currently in the NBA – hence why Lamb himself was plucked from the G League. It isn’t hard to argue that a team of this stature, with personalities like Steve Kerr and Steph Curry who’ve been outspoken activists for social justice, shouldn’t be playing someone with allegations this serious when they can’t even be bothered to contact the alleged victim.
And yet, the number of people in the media not even making that case against the Warriors but merely mentioning the Lamb accusations at all is not just low but shockingly, uncomfortably low. There doesn’t appear to be any major NBA shows as far as I can tell that have discussed this signing or Lamb’s allegations at all, at least on a significant level.
On ESPN.com, only one page on their entire site mentions them and it’s from their December recap article from when Lamb was first mentioned in the suit; the same is true for NBC Sports Bay Area, The Athletic, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, and Yahoo Sports, none of whom have written anything about Lamb’s affairs after initially recapping the lawsuit.
On NBA.com there’s nothing, nor has The Ringer, Sporting News or Fox Sports written about them. On almost every single NBA podcast you’ve heard of, there’s no mention of them.
On Reddit and Twitter, there’s no tangible outrage about to speak of, and in fact on Twitter, few searches of Lamb’s name even reference the allegations at all.
If you search “Anthony Lamb” on Google News, just about the only critical headline you’ll find is an SFGATE piece from March 17 that slams Lamb’s guaranteed contract as a “dark moment in team history.”
Otherwise, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single other headline with harsh words about the Warriors’ move. And if you type “Anthony Lamb” into the Google search box, none of the suggested search queries bring up even the slightest hint of what his ex-girlfriend has alleged about him. It’s hard to believe, but the Golden State Warriors giving a guaranteed contract to a man accused of rape has garnered so little controversy as to be damn near nonexistent.
The obvious question then is: how? How is it possible that something this serious can fall through the cracks on such a wide scale as this? How is it, for example, that every semi-irritating thing that Dillon Brooks and Patrick Beverley does is treated as bulletin board material for the entire NBA industry to breathlessly recap as if it was the most important thing in the world, but a player being accused of rape gets so little coverage as to be an irrelevant nonissue that doesn’t even affect Lamb’s search results? To me, there’s a micro answer and a macro answer.
The micro answer, I would speculate, is that because Lamb is a G League call-up, because he’s barely an NBA player to begin with, I think a lot of people aren’t invested in the allegations against him because he hasn’t stuck around long enough as an NBA player for people to care about him at all. Because he’s so new and is still a relative nobody, the news about him is probably harder to connect to for people than if it was a well-known veteran who was accused of something heinous. As wild as it is that the Warriors gave a contract to a G League call-up who’s been accused of sexual assault, it’s because he’s a G League call-up that he’s been able to persist in a loophole where almost nobody who follows the NBA feels like bringing up what he’s linked to, let alone castigating his employer.
That micro could not exist without the macro, however, which is that the sports world in general is embarrassingly, shamefully bad at properly devoting attention to athletes when they’re accused of rape, assault or harassment. The people who cover sports for a living normally don’t want to spend time on something as dark and serious as this, and so oftentimes, they’ll default to simply not doing it – washing their hands of important issues with the rationalization that “Well, someone else will do it.” But someone else with a major platform doing it routinely doesn’t happen, and so what instead happens is that a vacuum forms where figures have ominous personal clouds hanging over them that rarely if ever gets mentioned by the people covering them, even if they’re aware of them.
It’s why Connor McGregor and Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the most famous athletes on the planet, have been able to a maintain their reputations despite both being accused of rape, and why ESPN and FS1 can justify having Michael Irvin and Shannon Sharpe appear on their dueling morning debate shows, even though both men have been accused of rape – and by multiple women in Irvin’s case. (Irvin was taken off the air by NFL Network after accusations regarding his conduct at the Super Bowl and Irvin has filed a defamation lawsuit in response.) It’s hard enough for anybody in sports, anyone at all, to get called out for alleged sexual misconduct unless it reaches the magnitude of Deshaun Watson’s, and that’s even when the people involved are galactically famous. So it only makes sense that there would be almost no zeal whatsoever for people in sports to get outraged over the likes of Anthony Lamb, who’s a speck compared to the McGregors and Ronaldos of the world.
Still, that doesn’t justify the ear-splitting radio silence that has followed the Warriors signing of Lamb, a silence that is nothing short of embarrassing. This story isn’t merely about how craven and shameless the Warriors have been and how little integrity actually appears to mean to them, it’s about a sports media at large that is quite simply failing to perform its very basic task of holding its subjects accountable. Under no circumstances should it be THIS easy for the defending NBA champions to play someone facing the serious allegations Lamb is every night and face virtually no scrutiny for it.
And until that changes, until there’s a tangible backlash to teams doing something like this, the more players with baggage like Lamb’s will continue to be signed, and the more likely it’ll be that future victims of sexual assault will also stay silent about what happened to them because they too won’t see the point in trusting that the media will actually look out for them.