Threats by Florida Int’l University athletic officials to boot reporters who asked about the rape charges against baseball star Garrett Wittels proved to be hollow at yesterday’s press conference.

A “barrage of queries” about the rape charges were fired at Wittels and others and the conference became a “media circus,” reported the school’s student media—

Garrett Wittels, center, at the news conference yesterday.
Rico Albarracin, sports writer, said athletic director Pete Garcia at one point looked like he was trying to stop the conference which had turned into a “firestorm.” yesterday also criticized the PR surrounding the charges against Wittels, saying it was “ridiculous” for Garcia and others to block questioning about the alleged rape and worse to “threaten to revoke credentials for the season because of a question about the rape charges.”

“It’s baffling that a player charged with a felony is even allowed to play,” said ESPN.

The opening game of the season vs. Southeastern Louisiana starting at 7 p.m. Friday will be broadcast on Wittels is trying to hit in his 57th straight game, two short of the record. The second game in the series will also be broadcast on A third game is to be televised on ESPNU on Feb. 20, when the record might be broken.

New York Times Benches Self

Atlantis ad in the Feb. 15 New York Times.
Although yesterday said the rape allegations against Wittels and two other FIU students is “a big story,” the New York Times has not mentioned it, except for a one-paragraph item in a sports column in the Dec. 27, 2010 edition.

The alleged rapes took place at the Atlantis Resort & Casino on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

Victims, according to reports, are two 17-year-old women who described themselves as being students at the University of Nebraska. The legal drinking age in the Bahamas is 18 and the age of sexual consent is 16.

The Atlantis is a major advertiser in the NYT, frequently running color, full-page ads in the first news section.

Wittels Handled Self “Well”

Albarracin reported that Wittels “handled the press conference well. He said the right things and probably handled the questions like any 21-year-old.”

Wittels has not cut his hair since the batting streak began.

FIU coach Turtle has said that Wittels is “innocent until proven guilty.”

Albarracin also criticized the Athletic Dept. for withholding the decision on letting Wittels play until “minutes before the press conference.” He asked whether the decision “was that hard to make?"

As for the threats against the media, Albarracin said FIU needs the press more than the press needs FIU.

Full press conference is below: