Minnesota Football Team Boycotts Bowl After Players Suspended Over Sexual Assault Case

Ford Springer | Contributor

The University of Minnesota football team will be boycotting practices and any team-related activities, including their own bowl game, to protest the suspension of 10 of their teammates in response to a sexual assault investigation.

Several of the Golden Gophers players were specifically accused “by a female student in the alleged sexual assault” after Minnesota’s first game on September 2, the Star Tribune reports. Although a criminal investigation into the case resulted in no arrests or charges of the male students, they were suspended from the team Tuesday.

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 12: The Minnesota Golden Gophers offense led by offensive lineman Donnell Greene #73 and offensive lineman Jared Weyler #62 and offensive lineman Garrison Wright #78 and tight end Nate Wozniak #80 take the field against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Minnesota 24-17. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

The Minnesota football team had a players-only meeting Thursday to decide what they were going to do about their teammates’ suspension. They later brought head coach Tracy Claeys into the meeting where they informed him of their plans to protest.

The entire team delivered a joint statement Thursday to announce their plans to boycott all team activities until their teammates are reinstated. They also made it clear they will boycott the Holiday Bowl on December 27 if it comes to that.

“As a player, it became more than a game for me,” Gophers receiver Drew Wolitarsky said during the team’s announcement. “And I know it did, as you can see, for the whole team. It’s about the livelihood of these kids, after football. Because that’s why we came here; we came here to get a degree. We come here to make a life for ourselves, and these kids’ reputations have been ruined.”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22: Drew Wolitarsky #82 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers congratulates teammate Mitch Leidner #7 on a touchdown against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the first quarter of the game on October 22, 2016 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The team criticized the University’s handling of the sexual assault case that has been under investigation and claimed university President Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle “delivered unjust punishment,” the Star Tribune reports.

The woman who accused the players of sexual assault had been working on the Gopher’s game day operations staff, the Washington Post reports. She testified in court during which she recollected her sexual encounter with one of the players claiming she had been drinking and “felt very overpowered and fearful.” The woman alleged “multiple sexual assaults” after that involving other players.

At the time of the alleged assault in September, the woman told police investigators the initial alleged encounter was consensual. She acknowledged that fact in court admitting “I did say that,” before adding “I do not believe it was true.”

Although the case was settled in court in November, the 10 accused players have been suspended from the team and are still facing other serious consequences from the university.

Lee Hutton, the attorney representing all ten of the Minnesota students, said the university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office has recommended expulsion for five of the players, a one-year suspension for four of them and probation for one.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22: Emmit Carpenter #38 and Jacob Herbers #47 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers celebrate the game winning field goal against Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the fourth quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota defeated Rutgers 34-32.(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

The University released a statement from both Kaler and Coyle on Thursday after the team’s demonstration.

“We understand that a lot of confusion and frustration exists as a result of this week’s suspension(s),” the statement read. “The reality is that not everyone can have all of the facts, and unfortunately the University cannot share more information due to federal laws regarding student privacy. We fully support our Gopher football players and all of our student-athletes. Situations like this are always difficult and the decision was made in consultation with and has the full support of President Eric Kaler. The decision was based on facts and is reflective of the University’s values.”

“We want to continue an open dialogue with our players and will work to do that over the coming days. It’s important that we continue to work together as we move through this difficult time.”

Ford Springer

Contributor

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