Alabama Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville is facing questions about the way he handled allegations of second-degree rape against a football player while he was the head coach at Auburn University.

Tuberville, who has been enthusiastically endorsed by President Donald Trump, is running against former senator Jeff Sessions, who also served as attorney general in the Trump administration.

According to The Washington Examiner, the rape allegations against a player Tuberville coached date back to 1999:

“When Clifton Robinson, the short but quick receiver from Naples, Florida, returned to the Auburn University football team in August 1999 after pleading guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor to avoid going to trial after being charged with the second-degree rape of a 15-year-old girl, first-year head coach Tommy Tuberville pledged to figure out the right punishment for him.

“‘Clifton is back on the team,” Tuberville said. ‘He and I will sit down today, and I’ll tell him that we do things right around here, so he can expect there will be some punishment. What it is, I don’t know yet.’

“That punishment ended up being a mere one-game suspension from the team’s Sept. 4 season opener against Appalachian State. Auburn won 22-15.”

The lenient punishment meted out to Robinson clearly made no impact on the player, who was charged in 2000 with assault as the result of a fight. Four years later, in 2004, Robinson was arrested and convicted for the aggravated battery of an off-duty police officer.

As Examiner writer Siraj Hashmi notes, Tuberville cannot be blamed for the actions of one of his players, but he does have to answer for not taking the second-degree rape charge more seriously, and that calls into question the former coach’s judgment:

“When coaching young adults, (coaches) are bound to make mistakes, some more serious than others. Oftentimes, many of them deserve a second chance. However, when it comes to disciplining a student-athlete for something as serious as sex with a minor, Tuberville at least holds some accountability. A harsh punishment like booting an offending player from the team draws a line in the sand that mistakes such as these will not be tolerated.”

Neither Tuberville or his campaign have yet commented on the 1999 incident with Clifton Robinson.

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