Duke investigates sexual assault allegation against ex-basketball player

The woman says the attack happened in 1999, the same season the Blue Devils played in the NCAA final at Tropicana Field.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, shown here in 2018, says he was made aware of a 1999 sexual assault allegation against one of his former players on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. [Associated Press]
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, shown here in 2018, says he was made aware of a 1999 sexual assault allegation against one of his former players on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. [Associated Press]
Published Feb. 11, 2019

The woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of raping her while they were Duke students 20 years ago also says a Blue Devils basketball player raped her in 1999.

Meredith Watson’s lawyer released a statement late Friday claiming Watson was raped by a Duke basketball player and, when she reported the attack to a school administrator, received no assistance. The statement did not give the name of the player nor the name of the school administrator.

Watson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, wrote in the statement: “Ms. Watson was raped by a basketball player during her sophomore year at Duke. She went to the Dean, who provided no help and discouraged her from pursuing the claim further. Ms. Watson also told friends, including Justin Fairfax.”

Duke issued a statement after Saturday night’s basketball game at Virginia, detailing its intent to investigate the claims.

“Duke first learned of the allegations involving a student-athlete last night when they were reported by the media,” the statement said. “Coach (Mike) Krzyzewski confirms that he had no knowledge of the alleged conduct from 1999. The university is looking into the matter and will have no further comment at this time.”

Krzyzewski said after Saturday’s game that he had no knowledge of such an event. Athletics director Kevin White released a statement, echoing that comment.

Krzyzewski added during his postgame comments that he takes the situation seriously: “There’s an allegation. I didn’t find out about it until late (Friday), and I have no knowledge about it. That is hugely important. Our university will take care of whatever actions and give whatever information that’s needed to be done. Something like that is serious. Our school looks at it that way. We’ll do whatever we can to answer whatever questions are posed to us.”

The 1998-99 Duke team, which finished 37-2, was one of the most talented and highly touted in school history. But it lost to UConn 77-74 in the national championship game that season, which was played at Tropicana Field.

Fairfax has denied Watson’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her on Duke’s campus in Durham, N.C., when they were both students in 2000. That accusation follows one by Scripps College professor Vanessa Tyson. She has accused Fairfax of assaulting her at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 in Boston.


  1. ALLIE GOULDING  |   TimesGuests walk down Main Street with Cinderella's Castle in the background at Magic Kingdom on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at Disney World in Orlando.
  2. FedEx packages,  shown left, were filled with $81,000 from people out of state who Hillsborough deputies say were scammed by Dontavius Oakley, 35, who is charged with fraud.
  3. FILE - In this June 28, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Intelligence officials say Russia is interfering with the 2020 election to try to help Trump get reelected, The New York Times reported Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
  4. Kite boarders take advantage of windy conditions on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 in St. Petersburg. Windy weather caused some delays at Tampa International Airport. The expected cold also prompted Pinellas officials to open cold weather shelters Friday.
  5. A determination to play the position he loves has Tampa Bay Vipers defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock (49) still pushing at age 28. The Vipers play their home opener at 2 p.m. Saturday against Houston at Raymond James Stadium.
  6. Fans gather in Thunder Alley at Amalie Arena before the start of the 2019-2020 NHL season home opener between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers on Thursday, October 3, 2019, in Tampa.
  7. Dale Massad appears in court for a motion hearing on his bond status on March 14 the at West Pasco Judicial Center in New Port Richey. Massad is charged with attempted murder after authorities said he shot at a Pasco County Sheriff's Office SWAT team.
  8. FILE - This Jan. 9, 2020 file photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows Jonathan Watson. Watson has confessed that he beat two child molesters to death with a cane while behind bars and says his urgent warning to a counselor that he might become violent was ignored. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP,File)
  9. El Malambo tradicional se ha enriquecido con ritmos como el tap o el flamenco. Desde que Che Malambo se presentó en París en 2007 ha actuado en teatros del mundo entero.
  10. Hey kids, these are called ticket stubs. There was a time when you actually had to carry these around with you to get into ballgames and concerts. They're not as efficient as mobile apps, but they do have a certain sentimental value.
  11. The Republican National Committee sent out this mailer to a Florida resident in Tallahassee that claims to be a 2020 Congressional District Census. Democrats say the mailer is deceptive, as it's coming just before the official U.S. Census.
  12. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cedric Paquette shoots as Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury defends during the third period Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights won 5-3.