Feedback
News

University of Minnesota Football Team Ends Boycott After Sex-Assault Suspensions

University of Minnesota Football Team Returns To the Field 1:56

The University of Minnesota's football team will hit the field for the upcoming Holiday Bowl, they said Saturday, ending a brief boycott done in protest after 10 players were indefinitely suspended from the team.

While those players remain suspended, the team said they agreed on other conditions in order for the rest of them to return.

In making their decision, the team also acknowledged the issue of sexual assault — the reason that led to the players' suspension this week — and said finishing out the year was important.

Related: University of Minnesota Football Players Boycott Activities

"So many before us have given so much to this University and this football team; so many coaches, staff, administrators, professors, alumni, fans, and our community have invested heavily in the success of our program," the team said in a prepared statement. "We recognize that we must not let these people down."

On Thursday, the uniformed Gophers players stood shoulder-to-shoulder during a news conference to say all 99 teammates would boycott practices before the Dec. 27 bowl — and would skip the sporting spectacle against Washington State University altogether — if the school did not lift the suspensions of the 10 players.

But the team said Saturday they recognized they were in a losing position.

"After many hours of discussion within our team, and after speaking with President (Eric) Kaler, it became clear that our original request of having the 10 suspensions overturned was not going to happen," their statement said.

University of Minnesota Football Team End Boycott 1:31

During a meeting Friday night with Kaler and university athletic director Mark Coyle, the students said they came to a different agreement: Allow the suspended players to get a "fair hearing" on the issue with a "diverse review panel" and have the school show greater support for the overall team.

In addition, the team said, the players would "use our status as public figures to bring more exposure to the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women." Details of the agreements would be forthcoming, the team added.

Kaler told reporters Saturday that the school does stand behind its football team.

"I think the statement by the students today around support for victims of sexual assault is important," he said. "I will continue to amplify the fact that the football team's action in support of their teammates was not in support of sexual violence."

The suspension of the 10 players stems from a Sept. 2 incident in which a female student had sexual contact with players. In a redacted police report, a police investigator said the sexual encounter with one player appeared to be consensual based on videos taken at the time and shown to police by the player, according to the Star-Tribune newspaper.

However, the Star-Tribune reported, the woman told police that sexual contact with three other players was not consensual. During the course of the night, she said, she had been drinking and had sex with one player. But she was forced to have sex with others against her will, she said in court testimony in order to obtain a restraining order against five of the players.

Image:
University of Minnesota football team members talk to reporters in Minneapolis on Dec. 15, 2016. Jeff Wheeler / AP

While six players were involved in the incident itself, police said, it's unclear why the others have been implicated.

In the end, no players were ever arrested, and the Hennepin County Attorney's Office on Oct. 3 said it declined to press charges because of "insufficient" evidence.

An attorney for the 10 players said he will appeal the suspensions.

Students opposed to the team's decision to have a boycott gathered to protest on the university's campus Saturday. The demonstration asked for the community to "#standwithsurvivors."

Nevertheless, in addressing the boycott Saturday, the team said while they still have questions about why certain players were suspended, the players don't condone violence against women.

"There is only one acceptable way to treat all women and all men, and that is with the utmost of respect at all times," the team said.