Minnesota Football Players Boycott Program Following “Unjust” Suspensions
The Minnesota Golden Gophers seem to have something of a mutiny on their hands.
The team’s players announced Thursday that they will boycott all team activities leading up to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on December 27. The players are reportedly upset that the team suspended 10 other players for undisclosed reasons.
However, a father of one of the suspended players said earlier this week that the players have been suspended in connection with a Title IX investigation into an alleged sexual assault. The university conducted an investigation separate from a police investigation back in September.
Why were 10 players suspended?
Defensive backs Ray Buford Jr., Antoine Winfield Jr., KiAnte Hardin, Dion Johnson and Antonio Shinault, defensive lineman Tamarion Johnson, running backs Clarton Djam and Kobe McCrary and quarterbacks Seth Green and Mark Williams were all suspended in connection with the alleged incident.
Police records show that a woman claimed to have been sexually assaulted in Djam’s apartment while drunk early in the morning on September 2nd. She reported that several men were involved in the incident, including some of the suspended players. She said that the sexual encounter was consensual with two of them, but may not have been with four others.
The players refuted that claim and told police that it was consensual, and Djam even recorded the act on video. An investigator who viewed the video wrote:
“She does not appear to be upset by the sexual activity and does not indicate that she wants it to stop…and the sexual contact appears highly consensual.”
Why are the other players boycotting?
Senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky released a statement on behalf of the boycotting players:
“The boycott will remain effective until due process is followed and suspensions for all 10 players involved are lifted.”
The university and athletic director, Mark Coyle, released a statement following the players’ announcement:
“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 decision was based on facts and is reflective of the University’s values. 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.”
Considering the players were found not guilty by police, it is unclear why the school chose to suspend them.
Hardin, Buford and Dior and Tamarion Johnson were each suspended for three games earlier in the season when their names surfaced in the police investigation.
Some players met with Coyle regarding the suspensions, but came away from the meeting unsatisfied with what they heard. Wolitarsky told reporters this after reading the statement:
“We got no answers to our questions about why these kids are suspended, when they were just found not guilty by the law. He [Coyle] basically told us that he didn’t have answers, and that led us to believe that this is kind of unjust.”
Minnesota is slated to face Washington State in the Holiday Bowl later this month, and Wolitarsky asked the bowl committee to be patient while the team sorts through the matter.
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