Protect Our Defenders News Blog


[VIDEO] ESPN: Operation Gridiron

ESPN aired their investigative report, “Operation Gridiron” on E:60 following an ABC News’ Nightline report.

This is not supposed to happen at a US military academy. After all, these are institutions where the nation’s future military leaders are shaped, schools that pride themselves on codes of conduct and honor. And yet, the United States Air Force Academy and its football team are embroiled in a controversy that places them in stark contrast to everything they stand for. Eager to root out sexual assault and drug abuse among cadets, in 2011 the Air Force created a secret network of informants to gather information. One of those informants was Eric Thomas, a member of the Academy’s soccer team. The information Thomas provided led to the convictions of three football players and included the first successful prosecutions of sexual assault at the academy in more than a decade. But not long afterward, the program was shut down, and Thomas was expelled for actions, he claims, were part of his work as an informant. According to Thomas and his Air Force handler, top players “seemed very well protected” and as soon as they were implicated in wrongdoing, military leadership sought to end the program. The Air Force disputes Thomas’ version of events and the reasons for his expulsion. E:60’s Jeremy Schaap reports on the debate raging over the program labelled Operation Gridiron, its use of informants, and whether members of the Air Force football team received preferential treatment.

Last October, ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap spoke with veteran and Protect Our Defenders member Ariana Klay, and Attorney Susan Burke about the epidemic of sexual assault in the military in an episode of E:60, after three Naval Academy football players were accused of assaulting a 20-year-old female midshipman at an off-campus party.