The University of Minnesota’s football team has ended its boycott over the suspension of 10 players for an alleged sexual assault.
Last week, the team announced that it would sit out the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl in San Diego unless university President Eric Kaler reversed the suspensions of players accused of perpetrating and egging on the alleged gang rape of a young woman in the early morning of Sept. 3. The players had to decide by Saturday whether they’d move forward with the boycott.
After a meeting with Kaler on Friday night, the team changed its mind, apparently after reading an 80-page report detailing the alleged incident. The report, compiled by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) after a federally mandated investigation, contains horrifying allegations of repeated rapes perpetrated over the course of several hours by a group of the football players and a high-school recruit. The alleged victim filed a report with police just hours after the alleged assault.
According to the Star Tribune, the EOAA recommended that the five players who allegedly forced sexual contact onto the victim (Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson) be expelled. For players who were otherwise involved (Seth Green, Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams, Antoine Winfield Jr., and Antonio Shenault), the office recommended one-year university suspensions or probation. These player’s roles in the alleged assault are unclear, but based on the EOAA report, they could have potentially watched the alleged assault, cheered on the alleged rapists, and/or kept the victim from leaving the site of her alleged rape.
In response to the report, the university’s football coach and athletics director made a joint decision to suspend all 10 players. The players’ lawyer, Lee Hutton, has appealed their punishments.
Drew Wolitarsky, a senior on the team and the spokesman for the short-lived boycott, said on Thursday that the Title IX investigation and the suspensions, which had come down two days earlier, were “unjust.” “We’re concerned that our brothers have been named publicly with reckless disregard in violation of their constitutional rights,” he said. “We got no answers to our questions about why these kids were suspended when they were just found not guilty by the law.” (The Hennepin Count Attorney's Office opted not to press charges against the four players investigated by police for the assault. According to Minnesota Daily, the prosecution didn't move forward "because there was not evidence to prove excessive force was used or that the victim was physically helpless.") The Star Tribune reports that parents of the players were calling their kids, encouraging them to think it over.
On Saturday morning, after a team meeting that lasted nearly all night according to some reports, Wolitarsky made a statement ending the boycott. “As a team, we understand that what has occurred these past few days and playing football for the University of Minnesota is larger than just us,” he said. “I learned a lot from these past couple days: There are no right choices. There are no decisions that do not affect somebody else. This process has been extremely difficult, and I’m sure you all know how stressful this has been for everybody involved.”