Dylan Buell/Getty Images(MINNEAPOLIS) — Players on the University of Minnesota’s football team are refusing to play or practice until the school reverses its decision to suspend 10 players linked to a sexual assault allegation in September.
“Effective immediately, we will boycott all football activities. The boycott will remain in effect until due process is followed and the suspensions for all 10 players involved are lifted,” senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky said Thursday at the team’s practice facility.
He continued, “We, the united Gopher football team, issue this statement to take back the reputation and integrity of our program and our brothers that have faced unjust Title IV investigation without due process. We’re concerned that our brothers have been named publicly with reckless disregard, in violation of their constitutional rights. We are now compelled to speak for our team and take back our program.”
According to a Minneapolis police report, a University of Minnesota female college student said she was sexually assaulted by several Gopher football players after a night of partying and drinking in September.
In the report, she told investigators that in the early hours of Sept. 2, she drank as many as six shots of vodka at home before heading out to attend several parties with some friends. Investigators say she told them she later went to an apartment building, where other parties were taking place.
At some point, according to what she told police, she went to one player’s apartment that he shared with a roommate who was also there.
Police say she told them that she believed sexual contact with the first two men may have been consensual but sexual contact with others was not.
Police noted in their reports that she told them that she didn’t “have a recall about how the sex acts started” and that she said there was a “line of people, like they were waiting for their turn.” Police say she told them that people had their phones out but she did not know whether videos or photos were taken.
According to the police report, she said she was scared and they note she said she “didn’t feel like she could leave, and at some points believed she was being held down.”
Investigators, however, said the players were adamant that the sex was consensual. A criminal investigation resulted in no arrests or charges.
In a statement Tuesday, the university said the following football student-athletes had been suspended indefinitely from all team activities: Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, Seth Green, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson, Tamarion Johnson, Kobe McCrary, Antonio Shenault, Mark Williams and Antoine Winfield Jr.
“Due to privacy restrictions relating to student educational data, there is nothing further the University can share,” the statement said.
University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle released a joint statement Friday, responding to the players’ boycott.
“We understand that a lot of confusion and frustration exists as a result of this week’s suspension of 10 Gopher football players from all team activities. The reality is that not everyone can have all of the facts, and unfortunately the university cannot share more information due to federal laws regarding student privacy. We fully support our Gopher football players and all of our student-athletes. Situations like this are always difficult and the decision was made in consultation with and has the full support of President Eric Kaler,” the statement read. “We want to continue an open dialogue with our players and will work to do that over the coming days. It’s important that we continue to work together as we move through this difficult time.”
The players said the boycott would extend to its Dec. 27 bowl game against Washington State if its demands were not met.
Wolitarsky said the players are seeking a closed-door meeting with the administration as well as an apology from the school’s president and athletic director. He said previous meetings had resulted in few, if any, answers to the players’ questions.
“This decision for the players to take this stance is not easy but important to the action to preserve the integrity of the program and ourselves,” he said. “This effort is for players, by players.”
In response to the boycott, Gophers coach Tracy Claeys tweeted: “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights and support their effort to make a better world.”
Jerome Djam, the father of suspended player Carlton Djam, told ABC affiliate KSTP-TV that he was angry after learning of the school’s decision.
“I was extremely frustrated,” he said. “This is like a double whammy here. I mean, he is an intelligent kid, 4.0 GPA. He’s a talented kid. … These kids cannot get their lives all messed up this early in their lives with all the talent they have.”
Ray Buford Sr., whose son Ray Buford Jr. was also suspended, told KSTP-TV: “Are they supersleuths and they say they are guilty of everything? … That doesn’t smell right. … How many times do they have to say, ‘I didn’t do this'”?
According to KSTP-TV, “both fathers of Djam and Buford said their attorney will appeal any future decisions made by the university.”
Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Read More →