University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague’s sexual harassment toward two female colleagues came to light in seedy detail last Friday. They were not isolated incidents.
This morning, Star Tribune reporter Amelia Rayno, who covers the school’s basketball team, shares her account of the unwanted attention and touching Teague subjected her to over the course of their interactions. Her story opens on a mid-December night in 2013, when she agreed to get a drink alone with Teague after a going away party for a mutual associate at the university.
Rayno says she had long interacted with Teague in these kinds of settings, always in groups, as a way to further her relationship with the AD as a source. Perfectly common behavior in journalism. Until things got weird:
But this December night was different. Teague asked me about my longtime boyfriend, as he often did. My mistake was acknowledging that we had just broken up. The switch flipped. Suddenly, in a public and crowded bar, Teague tried to throw his arm around me. He poked my side. He pinched my hip. He grabbed at me. Stunned and mortified, I swatted his advances and firmly told him to stop. He didn’t.
“Don’t deny,” he said, “our chemistry.”
I told him that he was drastically off base, that my only intention in being there was as a reporter – to which he replied: “You’re all strictly business? Nothing else?”
I walked out. He followed me. I hailed a cab. He followed me in, grabbing at my arm and scooting closer and closer in the dark back cabin until I was pressed against the door. I told him to stop. I told him it was not OK. He laughed. When I reached my apartment, I vomited.
Later that night he texted: “Night strictly bitness.’’
Rayno had reported on Teague and the university since April of 2012, and says the two would text message each other from time to time. Again, Teague occasionally took typical reporter-source behavior way too far: “He would pepper work talk with comments that at first felt weird and eventually unacceptable. Once, he called me ‘cute.’ Another night, after I declined meeting for a drink, he asked me if I was wearing pajamas.”
That night in late 2013 was the tipping point, though. After, Teague increased the pressure:
When I had to call Teague for a quote, he would often afterward say, “You owe me.” He suggested I travel with the Gophers summer caravan to “get more scoops.” He once asked if I was going to Dallas for the Final Four. When I replied that our newspaper was not covering it because of budget issues, he texted: “I have other options to get u there in style.’’ And when I declined to meet him if he suggested a drink he would text things like “R u pouting?” and “The colonel is coming after you.”
Rayno’s response was to try and cut off all contact with Teague. Instead of taking the hint he doubled down on his attempts to contact Rayno:
“Ur no fun anymore,” he texted.
“U seem obtuse.”
“Ur radio silent.”
“U think I’m gross.”
“Ur giving me a complex.”
“U hate me, I’m toxic.”
Rayno eventually gave the full rundown of events to the Star Tribune’s HR department. They gave her a number of choices, including approaching Teague or his bosses. Rayno chose to wait and see if the harassment continued. Her reasons were all too familiar:
It was my decision to make and I chose what I believed was self-preservation. I didn’t want my career interrupted because of a powerful man’s misdeeds. Making a formal complaint could have resulted in me losing access at the university. It could have forced me to take another beat, perhaps out of sports; to change my career path in a way I never planned.
I was also concerned about how it would look were the information to get leaked. I carefully considered the editorializing and victim-shaming that goes on in such circumstances, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through that.
Appended to her story is a postscript added by the paper, saying that they confirmed Rayno’s account with the evidence she shared with HR last year.