This morning, news broke that Tennessee linebacker A.J Johnson and cornerback Michael Williams were under investigation for a sexual assault allegedly committed early Sunday morning. At his noon press conference, Butch Jones said
I want to be right rather than fast. We'll continue to gather information and based on what we have at that particular time, we will determine whether or not they will practice but if there is anything of it, then they won't practice. I think we've proven since we've been here that we're always going to act accordingly and we're going to act swiftly.
Four hours later, he did as promised, and Tennessee has announced that both players are now suspended from all team activities.
Johnson, of course, is one of the best players on the Vols' defense and is an emotional leader of the team. Williams has been splitting time at the second cornerback position with true freshman Emmanuel Moseley. With Brian Randolph already missing the first half of Tennessee's contest against SEC East-leading Missouri, these suspensions will hit the Vols hard on the football field, where they are narrow 3.5-point favorites in their quest to secure bowl eligibility. And, because we're a sports blog, we'll talk more about how Tennessee is affected on the field as the week progresses.
But right now, this is about doing things right off the field. Sexual assault is a huge issue right now in American culture--fittingly, today was the day that Rocky Top Talk and other SBNation sites changed our logo for the "It's on Us" week of action in an attempt to help combat the issue--and handling assault cases the right way is more important than winning football games. Butch Jones and the Tennessee administration are sending the right message to its players and fans by acting quickly and taking this very seriously.
As Butch Jones is fond of saying, every moment is a teaching moment, and this is the time to teach people that sexual assault will not be tolerated and to send a message to victims and potential victims that their voice will be heard. For the sake of everyone involved, we hope that no rape occurred. But while the investigation is underway, we can be proud of Tennessee for putting life ahead of football.