University Of Minnesota Football Players End Boycott Over Sexual Assault Suspensions

The players will resume practicing to play in their upcoming bowl game, they announced Saturday.

University of Minnesota football players announced Saturday morning that they had ended the boycott of all team activities they launched earlier this week, according to a statement emailed to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The team will immediately resume preparations for the team’s Holiday Bowl appearance, the players said.

The football players launched the short-lived boycott Thursday night, two days after the athletic department indefinitely suspended 10 of their teammates pending a university investigation into their involvement in an alleged sexual assault after the team’s season-opening game in September.

The players said they would not resume practicing ― and were even prepared to skip the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl in San Diego ― unless all 10 of the suspensions were lifted.

Friday afternoon, university President Eric W. Kaler and Athletic Director Mark Coyle indicated in statements and a letter to the school’s athletes that they would not back down in the face of the player’s demands. Late Friday night, Kaler and athletic officials met with the team, according to the Star Tribune, which reported that the players were still committed to a boycott once the meeting ended.

But early Saturday, the players relented. 

“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,” the players said in their statement.

Kaler and Coyle’s statements Friday night made it clear that the school viewed its “institutional values” as “far more important than any football game” or “any single athletic team.”

“The University of Minnesota will not change our values or our code of conduct for the sake of a bowl game,” Kaler said in his statement.

The players began their statement with a condemnation of sexual assault, saying that it has “no place on this campus, on our team, in our society.” 

During a news conference Saturday morning, Kaler said he was “very pleased” that the players had ended the boycott and promised a fair investigation and hearing for the suspended players. He said he believed the players’ intent “was to support their teammates,” not to condone sexual violence.

The players, who said that they were disappointed in a “lack of communication” from administrators over the suspensions and believed the school had not followed “due process” in suspending their teammates, maintained some of those complaints in their Saturday statement.

“As football players, we know that we represent this University and this state and that we are held to a higher standard,” the players said. “We want to express our deepest gratitude to our coaching staff and so many others for their support during this difficult time, and we hope that our fans and community understand why we took the actions that we did.”

The statement continued: “Our thoughts and prayers are for the well-being of the woman involved in the original incident, and for our 10 teammates to ensure that they are treated fairly. We look forward to representing the University of Minnesota and the state of Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl in a way that makes all of you proud.”

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