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News Media and #MeToo Should Be Asking Serious Questions About the ‘Brian Banks’ Movie

Brian Banks Film

Thursday, a major movie called Brian Banks, starring Greg Kinnear and including Morgan Freeman, opens in theaters across the country. It purports to tell the inspiring story of Brian Banks, who lost his promising football career, and temporarily his freedom, when in 2002 he was falsely accused of rape as a high school star in Long Beach, CA, before being “exonerated” a decade later.

When I first heard of the Brian Banks saga back in 2012, I was immediately drawn to it and thought the subject would make for an amazing documentary film about a black athlete overcoming a horrible injustice. I quickly learned that, curiously, a documentary with his endorsement was already in the works, even before his criminal conviction had officially been reversed.

Still intrigued, I decided to look more deeply into the narrative that the local news media here in Southern California was putting forward, partly because the more I learned about it, the less sense it seemed to make.

The short version of that narrative is this: Before his senior year at football powerhouse Long Beach Poly, Banks was accused by Wanetta Gibson of having raped her on campus during summer school. His conviction, which was at least partially racially motivated, caused him to go to prison, which cost him a promising college football career at USC, where he was being recruited; as well as any shot at making the NFL. After Banks served his time, Gibson contacted him via Facebook, they met, and Banks taped Gibson recanting her rape allegation. This then led to Banks’ conviction being thrown out, with the school district obtaining a large, essentially symbolic, judgment against Gibson to whom they had previously paid a hefty million-dollar settlement due to her rape claim, which had apparently already been spent.

While I have not seen the movie (thankfully for the movie’s producers, I was out of town for the recent premiere and press conference in Los Angeles), it is clear that this narrative is also the essence of the film, only with some extra dramatic license thrown in for greater effect. If this depiction was only an exaggeration of what really happened, that would just be normal Hollywood revisionist history, but after having spent quite a bit of time researching this story, there are a lot of legitimate questions about whether this version of events is actually accurate.

To be clear, I have no idea whether Banks actually raped Gibson. But I am confidant that the narrative apparently presented by the movie is a fairytale. And that, especially in the #MeToo era, should be raising eyebrows if not causing significant outrage among victims’ rights advocates. Here are the major parts of Banks’ current story which are clearly problematic:

Again, it is quite possible that Banks served five years for a crime that, while he admitted to it, he did not actually commit. However, the facts indicate there’s more to this story and that his “exoneration” could have been more the result of media pressure scaring his unsophisticated accuser than anything else.

The most troubling part of this whole saga is that here is what we know for sure happened in this case: Back in 2002, two high school students had some sort of sex on campus, one got paid over a million dollars by the school after having claimed she was raped, while the other ended up, after a five-year prison sentence, as a semi-celebrity who got paid $142,000 for his wrongful conviction, was given a tryout and then a front-office job with the Atlanta Falcons, and had a major movie made — with his name the entire title — making him into a hero.

There is just no way to turn that bizarre scenario into a remotely just ending… even in Hollywood.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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