Minnesota Gopher Football Players End Protest of Teammates Suspended for Sexual Assault
By Brandon Simmons
The Minnesota Gopher football team has officially ended their boycott of the Holiday Bowl and will have its eligible players participate in the game. The protest stems from members of the team being suspended due to allegations of sexual assault. According to Fox Sports, the team met with the university’s president and board of regents to come to an agreement of how the group would be handled.
It all started when a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by members of the team on September, after the Gophers’ win against Oregon State. The police report states that she was at the apartment of players Carlton Djam and Tamarion Johnson. Initially she had sex with Djam and another man, whose name has been redacted. Then she had sex with Johnson but could see there were people watching and standing in a “line” as if they were “waiting for their turn.”
When the university heard of the incident, they initially suspended 4 players but were reinstated after a judge lifted a restraining. But the school revoked that reinstatement after it was determined they violated a school rule that considered sexual assault as something where consent was not “clear and ambiguous.” This prompted the suspension of those 4 players and 6 more. This was responded to by a group of seniors who met with University president Eric Kaler and Athletic Director Mark Coyle. Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky says that the ordeal is bigger than what some seem to believe.
”As a team we understand that what has occurred these last few days and playing football for the University of Minnesota is larger than just us,” Wolitarsky said in a statement.
“I’m very pleased that the football team has realized the opportunity to represent the university and come out strong in support of the victims of sexual violence. I have promised a fair hearing and I attend to have that be true,” Kaler added.
As part of the agreement to end the boycott, the school promised to give the players a fair hearing. University officials have declined to give very little details on the reasons for the recent suspensions or anything surrounding the internal investigation.
There has been a lot of discussion around sexual assaults on campus, especially when it comes to the student-athletes. Last year, the Baylor football program came under fire after “60 Minutes Sports” reported 17 female students accused 19 football players of sexual and domestic assault incidents as well as a couple of gang rapes. It resulted in the firing of head coach Art Briles and AD Ken Starr. Universities are trying to bring more awareness to the situations but apparently there is still a lot more work to do.
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