Mateen Cleaves was never an NBA star, but he made a name for himself in college basketball while playing at Michigan State University. Recently, his name came up in headlines for the wrong reasons after he faced rape accusations.
While Cleaves was acquitted by a jury, the story got darker after a video of the alleged incident appeared to show Cleaves dragging the victim back to his room. It is the latest in a case of high-profile athletes receiving allegations and an important reminder that sports have real-world implications.
Mateen Cleaves’ career
As a guard for Michigan State, Cleaves was known for his playmaking ability. He put up 12 points, two rebounds, and seven assists during his college career, which culminated in 2000 when his team won the NCAA tournament.
Cleaves was drafted with the 14th overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. He never made a great impact in the NBA, however. His career only lasted for six years, most of them spent on the bench. Aside from his 78-game rookie season, Cleaves never played in more than 32 games during his career.
After his career, Cleaves became a TV analyst for Fox Sports Detroit. He also owned a record label, All Varsity Entertainment. In 2015, however, he was accused of a crime that would tarnish his image long-term.
Cleaves’ rape allegations
In 2015, Cleaves was accused of raping an unnamed woman in her mid-20s at a Mundy Township motel. The alleged event occurred on September 15, 2015 and resulted in charges of sexual conduct, third-degree criminal sexual conduct, assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, and unlawful false imprisonment. The charges would’ve sent Cleaves to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
After a four-year roller coaster of events, the trial kicked off. During the two-week trial, a video allegedly showed Cleaves pulling the half-naked accuser back into her hotel room, an allegation his attorneys said was only to avoid her embarrassment. Cleaves’ defense implied the accuser was only pressing charges due to the fact that she had consensual sex with Cleaves while she was still with her ex-boyfriend.
One witness, Coleen Dowdall, stated she saw Cleaves pulling the accuser back to the room while she repeatedly screamed, “Help me.” The jury did not think the video and testimony were enough, however. The jury, made up of three men and nine women, found Cleaves innocent. He wasn’t entirely in the clear in the court of public opinion, however.
After the verdict, some evidence leaked out, including the aforementioned video of Cleaves dragging the woman back to her room. Released by WXYZ-TV in Detroit, the footage shows the half-naked woman struggling with Cleaves, who is only in socks, as he grabs her by the arm.
Cleaves’s lawyers maintain that the video only shows him grabbing her to avoid embarrassment. While the former NBA player was found innocent, the video, stories like this stick around and serve as a reminder of the uglier side of sports.