In September, a woman came forward with sexual assault allegations against members of the University of Minnesota football team. Though those involved maintain the sex was consensual, ten players were suspended in connection with the investigation.
On Thursday, the football team pledged to boycott anything related to football—including a bowl game—in response to the suspensions.
“Their names are destroyed,” quarterback Mitch Leidner told The Associated Press. “It’s extremely difficult to get back, and it’s very unfair for them, and that’s why we’re sticking together through this thing.” The coach, Tracy Claeys, echoed his statements on Twitter:
Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!
— GoldenGopherHFC (@GoldenGopherHFC) December 16, 2016
In a statement read by senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky, the declaration stated that"the boycott will remain effective until due process is followed and suspensions for all 10 players involved are lifted."
(Photo of Drew Wolitarsky / courtesy of santaclaritafree.com)
Wolitarsky is referring to the Title IX investigation, in which the burden of proof is much lower than that in a criminal investigation. Under Title IX, the school needs to be at least 51 percent sure of sexual assault in order for the school board to take action.
According to University of Minnesota’s 2016 Clery Report, there were nine reported rape cases connected with the university, which is down from 10 in 2014. However, the cases of “fondling” went up from 10 in 2014 to 14 in 2016, increasing the total number of all sexual-related crimes on campus to 23 in 2016.
(Photo by Matthew O'Haren / courtesy of usatoday.com)
One possible motive the school has for suspending the players is that the school is scared of what will happen if they don’t. Florida State University was ordered to pay $950,000 to the woman who spoke up about her sexual assault, according to NPR. Baylor is predicted to pay out over $223 million, according to an Austin Law Firm. According to The Washington Post, a former Vanderbilt football player is likely facing jail time as a result of his rape of an unconscious student, following a retrial (he was found guilty, but a mistrial was declared). And of course, who could forget about Brock Turner and all the bad publicity Stanford received.
Another possible motive is less dubious; perhaps the university genuinely believes this woman was assaulted, and is, for once, trying to protect her.