Football players at the University of Minnesota have given up on their boycott of football activities after just a single day, ending their plans to skip an upcoming bowl game in solidarity with several suspended teammates.
The entire Golden Gophers team announced their boycott Thursday, saying they wouldn’t play football until they achieved justice for fellow players who are facing discipline from the school for their alleged involvement in a sexual assault.
The protest stems from a Sept. 2 incident during which a woman claims several players on the team participated in a gang-rape against her. The players have maintained the incident was a consensual incident of group sex.
Law enforcement officials have declined to bring any charges in the case, citing video evidence that backs the players’ claims of consensual sex. But the university proceeded with its own separate investigation, and recently suspended ten players from the team for various offenses. Five of the players are facing potential expulsion as well.
The boycotting players claimed their teammates had been deprived of due process and were being railroaded off-campus despite a lack of evidence to justify punishment. They said they wouldn’t play in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 27 unless the suspensions were reversed. (RELATED: Clay Travis Applauds Minnesota Football Boycott)
But less than two days later the boycott collapsed, with players agreeing to return to practice.
The decision to cave on the boycott came after a lengthy Friday night meeting team leaders had with school president Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle. The players subsequently debated throughout the night about what to do before agreeing to resume football activities.
“After many hours of discussion within our team, and after speaking with President Kaler, it became clear that our original request of having the 10 suspensions overturned was not going to happen,” player spokesman Drew Wolitarsky said in a prepared statement. Wolitarsky said that while the suspensions wouldn’t be reversed, the players had won a promise that their teammates would be given a “fair hearing” with a “diverse review panel” to consider their culpability.
Wolitarsky’s statement also branched beyond due process to emphasize the need to fight sexual assault more broadly.
“We as a team will use our status as public figures to bring more exposure to the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women,” he said.
No team in recent history has ever missed a bowl game due to player activism, though players seem to be increasingly aware of the power they can wield by refusing to play. In 2015, the president of the University of Missouri was fired just a few days after the football team announced a strike against his administration.
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