BOZEMAN – The Montana State football team is setting goals throughout this season to get in to the playoffs, but off the field, they are “Setting the Expectation” to help combat sexual assault and domestic violence.
In late September, the Bobcat football team got a visit from a special guest, Brenda Tracy. In 1998, Tracy was gang-raped by a group of men, two of whom were members of the Oregon State football team.
“She’s hard to describe. She’s just a really, really strong, strong woman, outspoken woman. She isn’t scared to tell it how it is and tell the truth and how things are,” said Bobcats senior defensive lineman Tucker Yates.
Now Tracy travels the country visiting football programs from all over the country, including the likes of Notre Dame, Florida State, Michigan and now Montana State.
“She’s a warrior,” said Wilson Brott, a senior tight end and offensive lineman. “She went through a terrible life experience, and she didn’t let that define her. A lot of people, they go through something like that, I mean that can be the end of somebody’s life, they can’t be a normal person after that.”
The week of the Eastern Washington game, Tracy spoke with the team about that day in 1998.
“The response from (the Montana State players) was overwhelmingly positive. A lot of the guys said, ‘What can we do, how can we help?’ And so I talked to them about my campaign, the importance of raising awareness, getting involved, taking a stand, and that’s what they’re doing,” said Tracy.
Set the Expectation, that’s Tracy’s campaign. It’s aim is to combat sexual and physical violence through direct outreach and engagement in high school and college athletics.
“We always get the Voice Center come and talk to us, and we always get these talks about sexual assault and treating women the right way and everything like that, but she just brought a way more powerful message and way more detailed,” said Yates. “We all have mothers, we all have sisters, some players even have daughters.”
The Bobcats made Tracy an honorary captain during the Eastern Washington game. She led MSU in the Bobcat prowl and on to the field.
“A lot of people look at us as role models, so I think anything we do to bring a positive change to this can benefit other people and kind of push the movement forward,” Brott said.
Tracy has affected many lives around the country, but it does come with some unfortunate backlash.
“I would say sometimes the fan base doesn’t always like me. They don’t like me to hold their coaches accountable, they don’t like me to call out processes that may be wrong. So having a voice comes with consequences, and some of that is threats, bullying and being name-called. You can call me every name in the book and that’s not going to bother me, because I’m at Montana State today with a whole football team on that field that is honoring survivors,” said Tracy.
And she will keep fighting for her ultimate goal.
“The end game is to stop sexual violence and domestic violence. The end game for me is about 10 percent of our population is committing these crimes, which means 90 percent don’t, and how do we engage the 90 percent of the men and also women to push back on the perpetrators,” Tracy said.
To learn more about Tracy’s story and her “Set the Expectation” campaign, visit the organization’s website.