Lions coach Matt Patricia met with reporters on Thursday, as part of a previously-scheduled press conference. He opened by making a statement regarding the story that surfaced on Wednesday evening of an indictment from 1996 on a charge of aggravated sexual assault. After his statement ended, he took roughly 13 questions.
“I’m here to defend my honor and clear my name,” Patricia said, reading from a prepared text. “Twenty-two years ago I was falsely accused of something very serious, very serious allegations. There were claims made about me that never happened. While I’m thankful on one level that the process worked and the case was dismissed, at the same time I was never given the opportunity to defend myself or to allow to push back with the truth to clear my name. This was something that was very traumatic to me when I was 21 years old, and once it was finally addressed, I tried to put it behind me.
“For those of you that are just getting to know me and those that have known me for a long time, you should know that I was raised the right way by two amazing parents who taught me to know the difference between right and wrong. To stand up for what’s right, and to stand up for those who’ve been wronged. I have two older sisters that taught me respect and love. I’ve always tried to protect them, and keep them from harm. I am a husband and a father to a wonderful and amazing family. I try to share those values with them. I am so thankful to my wife and family for being supportive of me. I believe and have always acted with a respect for all people, knowing that everyone is someone’s dad, mom, sister, brother, son, or daughter.
“I do not condone any of the type of behavior that has been alleged, and I never have. I have always been someone who respects and protects the rights of anyone who has been harassed or has been the victim of violence, and we as an organization will continue to operate that way. In these times, we need to be even more sensitive and responsible in dealing with these issues and separate right from wrong. Thankfully, truth is on my side.
“I lived with the mental torture of a situation where facts can be completely ignored or misrepresented with disregard to the consequence and pain that it would create for another person. I find it unfair and upsetting that someone would bring up this claim over two decades later for the sole purpose of hurting my family, my friends, and this organization, with the intention of trying to damage my character and credibility. I was innocent then, and am innocent now.
“Let me be clear, my priorities remain the same. To move forward and strive to be the best teacher, coach, and man that I can possibly be.”
Patricia first was asked whether he thought the issue would never come up, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement. He explained that he began interviewing for jobs not long after the incident was resolved, and that “it never was an issue.”
Next came the question of what happened on the night in question, which resulted in Patricia and a college football teammate/fraternity brother being accused of entering a woman’s hotel room and sexually assaulting her while on spring break.
“Again, I think what’s important here is what happened 22 years ago is what didn’t happen,” Patricia said. “As I said, I was innocent then, I am innocent now. I was falsely accused of something I did not do.”
He then was asked how the situation could have resulted in a grand jury indictment, if it was a false accusation.
“Again, I was accused of something I did not do,” Patricia said. “I went through the process, and the case was dismissed.”
Patricia thereafter avoided a question regarding whether he was in the woman’s hotel room, and whether consensual sex happened.
“Again, I did nothing wrong, and that’s all I’m going to say on that matter,” Patricia said.
He explained in response to the next question that he doesn’t regret not disclosing the incident to the Lions, because it never came up in any of his various job interviews, and he said that he never failed to be truthful with the Lions.
“My mission is to move forward and be the best coach I can be,” he said. “I am absolutely 100 percent the head coach of the Detroit Lions.”
Patricia exited while reporters were still asking questions, and the effort to “clear his name” ultimately did not include many (any) specifics. That said, his denial seemed heartfelt and genuine. The only lingering question is whether the alleged victim will decide, more than two decades after not telling her story in open court, to tell her story to the court of public opinion. Unless and until she does, there’s no reason to give Patricia anything other than the benefit of the doubt, and to respect his ongoing presumption of innocence.