The "sin" of the Minnesota Gophers Update: Boycott ends

See update at bottom of article:

Earlier this week we had another “campus rape culture” story break out in the news when the football team at the University of Minnesota announced that they would be boycotting their own games. The reason they gave was that ten of their fellow players had been suspended over allegations of sexual assault which were investigated by the police but not prosecuted. This has led some of the usual media observers to take precisely the wrong message from their actions. (Washington Post, emphasis added)

The case highlights the complications school administrators face in investigating allegations of sexual assault and meting out punishments. As the focus on campus sex crimes has intensified in recent years, universities across the country have struggled with striking a balance between protecting the rights of both the victim and the accused. The issue becomes even more delicate when it involves recognizable student-athletes who have been protected when they run afoul of the law or school rules in some cases and have been targets of false allegations in others.

This really isn’t “complicated” at all. I give the Post credit for at least acknowledging that there have been numerous cases of false allegations brought against students, and even more instances where there may or may not have been a crime committed, but neither the victim nor the school took the matter to the police and the courts for adjudication. Yet even after giving a nod to this sorry state of affairs, the press still seems to tie themselves into knots, acting as if it matters whether or not the accused is a star athlete or some loner from the chess club. Others, such as Sally Jenkins writing at the same outlet, attempt to make the argument that there’s a missing factor in the story which the players aren’t taking into account.

A college football team finally has recognized its power and leverage over campus administrators, but for a queasy-making cause: solidarity over an unprosecuted allegation of multiple sexual assault. The Minnesota Gophers are demanding that 10 accused “brothers” who have been suspended by the university for misconduct be reinstated or they will sit out the Holiday Bowl. There is something jarring about this, some missing sensibility.

What’s missing is any recognition that campus officials have the right to hold students to a higher standard than simply being non-felons.

I’m sorry, but… no. There is absolutely a line in the sand which separates the innocent from the guilty and that determination is made in a court of law, not a faculty lounge. If these young men were guilty of sexual assault they needed to have far more done to them than simply missing some gridiron games or getting booted from school. They would have needed to go to jail. But the police investigated and found no evidence of a crime which they could prosecute. This does not create a situation which invites the university to step and administer their own punishment.

Now, if the reason being given was that some code of conduct had been violated and the students were all aware of the guidelines this would be a different matter. Looking at the facts of the case there is certainly plenty of conduct which is questionable to say the least. There was underage drinking going on, both on the part of the female student who claimed to have been assaulted and the players. There was at least one instance of sexual contact which was consensual by the victims own admissions and then three to five more which may or may not have been, but her memory is hazy.

As I said… questionable to say the least. At a bare minimum, do you really want to be the kind of guy who joins in on this sort of tag team activity? Do you expect it to lead to some sort of long term relationship? (That could be awkward at the holidays in years to come. “Come on, Dad. Tell us about when you and mom first met.”) But the question here is whether or not their actions, absent any criminal activity, were in violation of a known requirement for students at the school. Is everyone who drinks alcohol while under the legal age being suspended? Does every instance of sexual activity get you kicked out of the university? If so, then fine. Suspend them. But it doesn’t sound that way. And the school wasn’t even saying why they were suspended, but no other explanation has been offered.

We don’t need schools acting in the role of kangaroo courts. In this case – thankfully – the proper process was followed. An accusation was made and turned over to the police for a criminal investigation. That case didn’t go anywhere, so at the point the question should have ended. If the players want to stand in solidarity with their teammates who have seemingly been falsely accused, they’re not “sending the wrong message” to anyone. They’re grasping the concept of the rule of law.

UPDATE: (Jazz)

Of course they waited until I’d published this article before pulling an Emily Litella. Never mind. (NBC News)

The University of Minnesota’s football team said Saturday morning they are ending their boycott of activities and will play in the upcoming Holiday Bowl — a reversal of a protest announced after 10 players were indefinitely suspended from the team.

In making their decision, the team acknowledged the issue of sexual assault, which was the reason that led to the players’ suspension this week, and said returning to the field was important.

“So many before us have given so much to this University and this football team; so many coaches, staff, administrators, professors, alumni, fans, and our community have invested heavily in the success of our program,” the team said in a prepared statement. “We recognize that we must not let these people down.”

So that didn’t last long. They did have meetings with the administration who seem to have given them “something” to save face before backing down. The ten suspensions will not be overturned prior to the game, but the suspended players will get a “fair hearing” on the issue with a “diverse review panel” and have the school show greater support for the overall team.

So who do you think got to them? One possibility is that they honestly expected the school to cave under the pressure of missing the bowl game but when they didn’t they had to admit they weren’t up for a protracted fight. If any of them have prospects for the NFL or even more college ball they could be losing out on a lot of exposure and possibilities by skipping the big game. Also, it would be a huge hit for the school so they might have been bringing pressure on them in the background.

Either way, the ten other players remain in a state of being punished for something which they never even went to trial over. It’s a lose lose.


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