Cal Student Speaks Out About Sex Harassment in Athletics

The former UC Berkeley student who accused members of the university’s football team and coaching staff of sexual harassment in an explosive Facebook post spoke out Thursday in her first interview.

Paige Cornelius, 20, appeared on the “Today Show” to talk about her experience as a Sports Medicine intern in the Cal Athletics department and the constant harassment from members of the coaching staff she said she endured, which eventually led her to quit.

Cornelius said, one night, a volunteer assistant coach snuck offered to help her with with her economics class and snuck her into office while she was under the influence of alcohol.

“I do remember him grabbing at me, kissing me, putting his hands on me,” she told NBC News. The following day, he told her he will get her fired if she doesn’t have sex with him. A few days later, she said she quit the team.

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The incident was among other harassments which include “lewd” remarks made by members of the California Golden Bears football team as well as the “persistent” direct messages from the another coaching staff, Cornelius said.

Both coaches declined to comment. They were both unpaid volunteer assistant coaches and are no longer on the team. The reason for their departure is unclear.

Cornelius wrote in her Facebook post that she was “medically withdrawn from school, seeking intensive therapy and psychiatry for the post-traumatic stress syndrome and anxiety that happened from the time I spent working for the Cal Football team.”

“I don’t want money,” Cornelius told NBC News. “I just want respect for all women. I want this toxic masculinity culture to end.”

Cal Athletics responded to the allegations saying that it does not have its own conduct process or investigates cases on its own. The allegations were turned to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination.

“Allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment by campus employees are confidential unless officials determine policy is violated, and disciplinary action has been decided. Such allegations against students remain private regardless of the outcome, under UC policy and federal law regarding student records, the sports program said.

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NBC News spoke to current female Cal Athletics employees who don’t want to be identified say while they love parts of their jobs, it’s a culture ripe with daily harassment.

Another intern who worked under the previous head coach, who also asked not to be identified, told NBC News that she also quit her job with the team because of constant sexual harassment by former assistant coaches.

At a press conference last Friday, Cal head football coach Justin Wilcox, told reporters that the allegations were “tough to hear.”

“This cuts to the core,” Wilcox said. “We want to do everything we can as a program to support the investigation where people can be held accountable for their actions.”

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