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Link Gets Backlash for Calling UGA Football Players Rapists and Murderers

Commissioner Melissa Link.

Calls are mounting for Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link to apologize after making a reference to University of Georgia football players “raping and murdering.”

Link made the comment during a discussion at a budget hearing Thursday about a proposed Youth Police Cadet Corps. She suggested recruiting ex-UGA athletes to fill vacant positions in the police department.

“I think all the football players got drafted,” Commissioner Mike Hamby quipped.

“A lot of them are out there raping and murdering,” Link responded.

“Whoa, whoa!” said Commissioner Mariah Parker. “Allegedly. Jesus.”

The comment caught the ear of state Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens).

Monday night, Commissioner Patrick Davenport issued a statement distancing himself from Link’s comment:

At the ACC Commission Meeting last Thursday, District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link made a comment that was seen by many as a blanketed statement of defamation directed towards UGA Football players and, by association, the athletic program at the University of Georgia. Commissioner Link’s statement does not reflect the views of myself or my campaign, as I am grateful for the countless contributions made to our city and its history by players both past and present and by UGA. I am also appreciative of the many positive contributions and dedication Commissioner Link has made to Athens. We must improve our political dialogue and discourse, and continue, together, to make Athens awesome!

Alvin Sheats, president of the NAACP’s Athens chapter, also condemned Link’s comment:

In our beloved nation you are innocent until proven guilty. It is incumbent on all of us, including our elected officials, to remember and cherish this foundational principle. Commissioner Link was out of order making that intemperate and outrageous statement about UGA football players. She should be ashamed and is duty bound to retract that statement and apologize to these young men and all of our residents. Should she refuse to do so, the Mayor and Commission publicly and as a collective body should condemn her remarks clearly and forthrightly.  Commissioner Link and all elected leaders must set the highest standards for justice and fairness and avoid any hint of promoting bias. 

Conservative talk-show host Tim Bryant had Gaines on his WGAU show this morning and said he invited Link, but she declined.

Link told the Athens Banner-Herald that Gaines took her comment out of context.

“The fact is, the vast majority of college athletes never get anywhere near a professional career in athletics, and one would hope it would be a priority of the program to assure that those individuals transition smoothly into productive adulthood. Sadly, quite a few do not,” she said.

Former linebacker Alan Anderson was indicted on rape charges in April. Rape charges against another ex-Bulldog, Bacarri Rambo, were dropped last month. Akhil Crumpton, who played for UGA in 2017 and 2018, is accused of shooting and killing a local RaceTrac clerk in 2021.