The text messages that Bob Bowman (and his friend, the infamous Sean Hutchison) sent seven years ago to Caroline Burckle came out this past Wednesday.
Bowman's response was some epic spin:
"the reference to the brother, however, was swimming related"
I wouldn't accept that explanation from my four year old daughter. In fact, there is a lot about this situation, despite the adult nature of the texts, that warrants such comparisons. We'd have to have a conversation about the lying on top of whatever she did wrong.
What Bowman did in the first place was wrong. What followed has only made it worse. His statement where he couldn't summon a morsel of remorse. His ridiculous assertion that he was talking about Clark Burckle's swimming in a text string in which included "yea baby" and "sexual tension".
This is something basic we would teach small children who can only barely communicate: tell the truth, apologize for what you did, or you will make the situation worse.
So far, there have been no true consequences for Bowman. He got a sternly worded letter from Frank Busch, and from his athletic director. He had to dodge a few reporters. His tactic has been a simple one, straight out of the playbook that has worked in swimming for so long:
Just ignore it as much as you can and wait for people to stop paying attention. Wait for your army of enablers to wear down any outcry against you.
Those enablers are already out in force. They have several lines ready:
"Why is Caroline Burckle bringing this up seven years later?"
Caroline Burckle has done nothing wrong and has nothing to apologize for. I've read in many places that Bowman "apologized". But nothing in his mealy mouth statements indicate that, and all apologies that his top secret apology to Burckle way back when doesn't seem very genuine. He apologized because he got caught and boy was that easy!
"Are you some kind of perfect person who has never made mistakes"?
Of course none of us are perfect. However, most of us face appropriate consequences for our actions. Bowman did not, and the people making apologies for him now are working to ensure that remains the case. In fact, the reaction only makes me more worried that there are many more things that people have excused in the name of their hero worship of "Michael Phelps' coach".
Finally, there has been rampant speculation about Bowman's sexuality, given that his suggestive text was in regard to Burckle's brother. A few things here:
Bowman's sexuality is completely beside the point to the content of the text messages. Whether he is straight or gay or asexual for that matter, the texts carry the same level of wrongdoing.
The rampant speculation is a distraction, and frankly if Bowman is gay and has for whatever combination of reasons decided to keep that a secret up to this point, then he deserves empathy for that.
That does not in any way excuse what he has done here, and Bowman should be given the space and time to discuss that if and when he wants to.
The big issue here is that once again, the truth has been delayed, obfuscated and weaponized for the purpose of propping up one of our "great" coaches. Had an appropriate sanction been given at the time, Bowman may have been able to recover more dignity by now and Burckle would likely be feeling a bit more closure.
An actual message of "zero tolerance" would have gone out to the swimming public, instead of the hollow words we got. Bowman may not have actually coached the 2012 Olympics, where Clark Burckle competed as a member of the US Team.
The broader conversation here is that Bowman's bootlickers (of which there are legion) would like for everyone to move on. We cannot and should not do that. Not without the truth. Bowman needs to admit what actually happened, and the very few men that hold power over him have to hold him accountable. Truth always comes before reconciliation.