by Irvin Muchnick
Under pressure from Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey and a cacophony of outrage from the community and media, the president of Garden City Community College, Ryan Ruda, apparently has issued a vague invitation to the late Braeden Bradforth’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, to meet with him in Kansas.
From here, this step reads as only superficially positive. I say “apparently has issued” because no terms have been discussed, according to Kansas sources. Indeed, as I write this, no actual meeting has been scheduled. The Ruda “offer” may not even include underwriting travel expenses.
I am not clear on why, if Ruda is so keen for such a meeting, he doesn’t fly himself to Congressman Smith’s district office in Freehold, instead of expecting Atkins-Ingram to make a second punishing trip on her own dime. In her first trip to Kansas in late January, the mom gathered new information from a range of on- and off-campus sources, but did not meet with any college officials.
The quest for justice and accountability in the death last August of the 19-year-old Bradforth — the freshman football player who died from exertional heat stroke following then Garden City head coach Jeff Sims’ first practice session — has made great strides because of the strength of numbers and growing attention from major outlets such as Kansas public radio and the USA Today newspaper network. But what exactly is a sitdown with the head of the community college supposed to accomplish?
Does Ruda just want to tell Atkins-Ingram that he’s sorry for her loss? The phone trunk could facilitate that. Besides, that ship sailed eight months ago. With the exception of the former athletic director, John Green, who attended Braeden’s funeral in New Jersey, not a single member of the Garden City football staff, athletic department, or college administration reached out to Atkins-Ingram in her time of grief.
Jeff Sims (now at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin) babbled that Bradforth had had a heart attack caused by a blood clot, in “an act of God” — a piece of manipulation that, thanks to the poor reporting of Sports Illustrated and others, drove the scandal underground until the coroner’s autopsy, nearly four months later, unequivocally found that the cause of death was exertional heat stroke, which is 100 percent avoidable.
Other players who participated in the brutal repetitions of sprint drills that day in the summer heat allege that the coaches withheld hydration, We also now know that the college destroyed the campus video surveillance of Bradforth’s fatal collapse and slow summoning of emergency medical services (during which a coach ordered the dying young man doused with water).
At a powerful April 5 press conference with Atkins-Ingram, Congressman Smith called for Garden City to commission an independent investigation, modeled after the one by the University of Maryland last year following the death from the same cause of football player Jordan McNair.
On April 11, nearly 100 community members and supporters of the Bradforth family gathered at a church in Asbury Park to amplify this message.
Immediately following the Jordan McNair death, Maryland’s president, Wallace Loh, expressed condolences to the family, and more importantly, spoke publicly of the university’s “legal and moral responsibility.” Eventually, in the wake of the independent investigation, Loh himself would step down, and both conditioning coach Rick Court and head coach DJ Durkin were canned.
If, at this very late date in the proceedings, college president Ruda wants to make amends, he can take corresponding action to show he means business. He can release the internal review Garden City claims to have completed, and he can announce a plan for an independent investigation.
It is important to note that Congressman Smith wrote not just to President Ruda and other college administrators and trustees. The congressman’s demand for accountability was also sent, one by one, to the mayor and members of the board of commissioners of the city of Garden City; to the chair and other members of the board of regents of the Kansas higher education system; to the executive director of the Kansas Association of Community Colleges; and to the executive director and leadership of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Next, Concussion Inc. will upload the complete package of Smith’s letters, and encourage readers to follow up with letters and emails to all of these officials and entities.
This is what the Braeden Bradforth campaign needs right now. It does not need the Garden City Community College chief’s possible lame attempt to defuse it with a photo op.
DEATH OF BRAEDEN BRADFORTH — CHRONOLOGICAL HEADLINE LINKS: https://concussioninc.net/?p=13441