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University Of Minnesota Players To Boycott Football Over Sex Assault Suspensions

The football team announced they would boycott the Holiday Bowl until 10 players suspended over sexual assault allegations were reinstated.

Originally posted on
Updated on

The entire University of Minnesota football team announced Thursday that it would boycott upcoming games after the school suspended 10 players for sexual assault allegations.

The 10 Golden Gophers players were suspended indefinitely by University of Minnesota officials on Wednesday after an internal investigation into an incident that happened in September, according to the Star Tribune. Law enforcement officials declined to pursue charges against the players, but four players were previously suspended for violating unspecified team rules, resulting in them missing three games.

The entire team said Thursday that they would boycott all football activity — including the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 against Washington State in San Diego — until the suspensions are lifted for the 10 players.

“We are concerned that our brothers have been named publicly with reckless disregard without consideration of their constitution rights,” said senior Drew Wolitarsky, who read from a prepared statement as his teammates stood behind him at a university athletic building.

The team demanded a meeting with the Board of Regents, without university President Eric Kaler and Athletic Director Mark Coyle present, "to discuss how to make our program great again." The players also called for Kaler and Coyle to apologize and for them to be held accountable.

Mark Neville, the executive director of the Holiday Bowl, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that they are continuing to prepare for the game, despite the team's protest.

"We are continuing to prepare for the National Funding Holiday Bowl," Neville said. "However, we are aware of the situation at the University of Minnesota and are monitoring it closely."

The university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) investigation recommended that five of the suspended players also face expulsion, their attorney Lee Hutton told the Star Tribune. The other players faced a one-year suspension or probation. BuzzFeed News has reached out to Hutton for further details about the case.

An 80-page report from the University of Minnesota, published by 5 Eyewitness News, said the accused players tried to hide and delete evidence, in addition to giving police conflicting reports.

Eight of the accused students deleted relevant messages and videos from the alleged sexual assault at the suggestion of another player, the EOAA report found.

The university also said the players likely engaged in a collective effort to hide the identities of the men who were present.

“The accused students were generally only willing to identify individuals who were present…after the EOAA investigator demonstrated that this information had already been provided by other sources,” the report states.

Some of the players were directly accused of sexual assault by a female student, who said the incident happened in the early morning on Sept. 2, after the team's first game. According to police records obtained by the Star Tribune, the woman said her memory is spotty and that “she doesn’t have a recall about how the sex acts started.” After having sex with one player, others followed. She told police she saw a line of men waiting to take turns.

“I was removing myself from my mind and my body to help myself from the pain and experience going on,” she testified. “They kept ignoring my pleas for help. Anything I said they laughed. They tried to cheer people on.”

Police investigators said they interviewed the initial player accused of rape and that he said the sex was consensual, showing investigators about 90 seconds of footage taken during the act.

The woman “appears lucid, alert, somewhat playful and fully conscious; she does not appear to be objecting to anything at this time," investigator Matthew Wente wrote in his report after watching a clip of the footage.

Police interviewed other players who said the sex was consensual. On Oct. 3, the attorney's office decided not to pursue charges.

University President Eric Kaler said in a statement Wednesday that head coach Tracy Claeys made the decision along with Coyle to suspend the players "based on facts and on our university's values," but the school did not elaborate on their findings.

BuzzFeed News also reached out to school officials for further information.

UPDATE

The players announced Saturday they were ending their boycott. Read the story here.

Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.

Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at michelle@buzzfeed.com.

Adolfo Flores is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He focuses on immigration.

Contact Adolfo Flores at adolfo.flores@buzzfeed.com.

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