The University of Minnesota’s football team will take to the field once more, athletes and officials announced Saturday, after previously vowing to boycott play and practice due to the suspension of 10 players on sexual assault allegations.
The 10 Golden Gophers players were suspended by school officials earlier in the week amid an internal campus investigation into a September incident, prompting the rest of the team to announce Thursday a boycott of all play, including the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 against Washington State.
Following a Friday night meeting between players and top university officials, the team announced on Saturday that they had ended their protest.
“It became clear that our original request of having the 10 suspensions overturned was not going to happen,” senior Drew Wolitarsky told reporters Saturday in a prepared statement.
Wolitarsky said university officials had promised the suspended players would have a fair hearing from a “diverse review panel,” and vowed to show support for the “character shown by the great majority of our players.”
At a separate press conference, University President Eric Kaler said he was “grateful” the players were ending their boycott.
“We had a very frank and candid discussion. I listened to their concerns. I think I was able to explain our point of view around the actions that we took,” he said.
Some of the players were reportedly accused of sexually assaulting a woman following a game, but police reviewed footage that appeared to show the female student was “alert” and did “not appear to be objecting to anything,” according to the Star Tribune. Other players were accused of deleting cellphone evidence of the incident.
Local prosecutors declined to press charges in October, but the school announced Wednesday the players were being suspended “based on facts and on our university’s values.”
However, President Kaler also said media coverage of the team’s boycott had not properly conveyed the intentions behind the players’ actions.
“They were in a situation where they were supporting teammates, and I think the local and national media translated that into support of sexual violence and their intent was to support their teammates,” he said.
Wolitarsky said he and his fellow teammates were seeking to prompt “an open discussion about the lack of due process when an accusation is made against any one.”
“Sexual harassment and violence against women — they have no place on this campus, on this team, in society, and at no time should it ever be condoned,” he said.