Sometimes Words Are Worse Than The Sticks And The Stones

By Gregory Moore
Updated: December 7, 2004

Calvin Murphy may or may not be able to return to the job he loved so much because of society’s ‘stigma’ of not truly believing that he is not a child molester even though a court said he wasn’t.

SAN ANTONIO – When the news broke months ago that former NBA player Calvin Murphy may have molested five of his ten children, I was as shocked as anyone. If I’m not mistaken when the news hit, it was still during the 2003-04 season and everyone that was covering the San Antonio Spurs on that night were just in awe. As a matter of fact, even though this was the game that we all would get a chance to see King James, it was Murphy that dominated the conversation at the dinner table and in the media workroom. It’s probably hard for readers to understand why this would be such a big story but when you are covering a sport at the collegiate or high school level, you are like family. For the writers who cover the NBA, we mingle with the television personalities who do the broadcasting. We are all media brethren if you will and so when one of us hurt, we all hurt. On that day we were all hurting because everyone who covered the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Spurs thought of Murphy as one of the ‘uncles’ in the family. So imagine my adulation when it was announced that he had been acquitted of all charges that stemmed from this terrible situation. Imagine how happy many of us who consider Murphy to be a friend felt that maybe his life would get back to semblance of normalcy. There’s only one problem with the wishful thinking that myself and so many others want to see happen; it simply will not take place. It won’t happen because like so many others who have been falsely accused of a crime, the public never forgets the fact that you were charged with a crime of such magnitude and thus your public life has been irreparably damaged almost beyond repair.

AN INNOCENCE GONE FOREVER BECAUSE OF AN ACCUSATION I don’t want to ever portray to anyone that I thought that his daughters were lying about being abused. I cannot surmise whether they were telling the truth or if they fabricated the whole story. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes and the only people who really know what happened are Murphy’s five daughters who brought the accusations against him and Murphy himself. Ironically that is how the jury left the case on his acquittal. Yet let’s ponder just what an accusation like that could do to any of us for a moment. Even though Murphy is a famous person, when you strip him of his celebrity status, child molestation charges still stick hard to him as they would to anyone. It’s the type of charge that even though he’s acquitted, there is a district attorney out there who thinks he is a monster. The problem with this false accusation is that Murphy cannot defend against it no matter how hard he tries yet it has taken everything from him because his presumption of innocence was never brought to the forefront.

Maybe it’s our social climate right now or just the overzealousness of the Harris County prosecution. Maybe the District Attorney’s office felt they had a good case and just couldn’t prove it to the jury of his peers. Whatever the reason the trial is over and they can never charge him with this crime ever again. Yet what about Murphy’s plight? What about the fact that here was a man who was doing well after his basketball career and by all accounts was doing whatever it was necessary to make sure that his children were taken care of. What about the fact that he may not ever be able to go back to the job he loved covering the game that he loved for the team that he cherished. What responsibility does his accusers have for trying to right the wrong that was heaped upon their father? Like I said earlier I’m not trying to make the daughters out to be monsters or greedy, sniveling wenches who figure they got slighted in the family. After all only they know the truth in the situation and only they and their father really know the whole truth. But while they are feeling the pain of being not heard, what of their father who may or may not be able to be a whole person again? For those individuals who are truly innocent of such crimes, these are the feelings that they probably are experiencing. While the accuser is gone and out of the limelight, the accused who was found innocent of such egregious charges has to find a way to pick up his or her life and try to go back to a point before the event even happened. Not an easy thing to do I’m sure. How can anyone put their life together after being accused of a horrific crime and was found not just ‘not guilty’ but innocent of all charges? For those of us who have never been in that position, we may never know on a first hand basis.

WORDS LEAVE DEEPER BRUISES THAN THE STICKS THAT ARE THROWN When I look at what has happened to Murphy over the past several months and I read about the trial itself, I don’t see sticks being thrown at anyone. The words being hurled around in court are cutting both the alleged perpetrator and the alleged victim. Here we had a father being accused of molesting his own flesh and blood and the father’s lawyers were calling the daughters liars. We have a prosecution team who is out to try and put a celebrity away for life while his lawyers are trying to discredit a member of his client’s family. The words being used are cutting much more deeper than any stick, stone or any other object that you could physically throw at someone.

I look at how broken down a man Murphy is from photographs and video clips and my heart just leaps. When I look at his children, I just want to cry. It’s hard for me to see a man who I have come to know over the past decade or so as such a monster when he was giving me advice about how to become a loving husband and father when my time should come. It’s for hard for me to watch such a picture because it was Murphy who had given me a heartfelt talk about being a young Black man and being responsible in this business. It was Murphy who would joke with the rest of us young Black reporters and wish us well in our endeavors. Sure he may or may not remember all of our names or every piece of the conversation but he was genuine just the same. It was that genuine spirit that I saw twice a year in San Antonio that I’m sure was there for his children at one point.

Was Murphy guilty of what he was accused of? I don’t know. That is going to be a secret that is between him, his daughters and God himself. Would I wish the pain that he and his family are going through on anyone who has given me grief over the years? In no way could I ever fathom being in a situation like what he was in nor would I want anyone that I knew to go through that situation. It’s funny that in today’s world we expect the sticks and stones to hurt us more than words would but when it comes to a word like molestation and law enforcement is saying that you have molested one of your own offspring, I don’t think sticks or stones do more damage than having that word rip your heart out and just turn your world upside down. It just doesn’t happen to sports celebrities like Murphy and others but it happens to the ‘ordinary’ folk we know and care about. It happens every day and sometimes we are all paralyzed to do anything about it.