The Gophers football boycott: What we know

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ten University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football players have been suspended following accusations of sexual assault by a female student.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Ten University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football players have been suspended following accusations of sexual assault by a female student.

On Thursday, players - perhaps the entire roster - promised to “boycott all football activities,” including the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl, until the suspensions are lifted. The university is standing by its decision.

On Friday, documents leaked to KSTP-TV provided the most detailed accounts yet of the sexual encounter that started all this and why the U reached its decisions. Many will find it disturbing.

There’s a lot that led up to this that we know about. And there’s plenty we don’t know or are just learning.

Here are the facts:
How did this all start? Sept. 2, a sexual incident occurred between a 22-year-old female student and multiple football players. It happened hours after the Gophers season opener at TCF Bank Stadium. She said it was sexual assault. She went to an area hospital to have a rape kit examination, and reported the incident to Minneapolis police the next day. A number of players, their attorney and family members have said publicly or to police that it was consensual.


What happened? It started with the woman and two players in a room and then became a prolonged sexual encounter between the woman and between 10 to 20 football players, including one high school recruit, with males lined up outside an apartment bedroom. That’s according to 23 pages of Minneapolis police reports and an 80-page report from the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action posted by KSTP.

She said she was drunk and her memory was hazy and included gaps. Both the U and Minneapolis police said early parts of the encounter appeared to have been consensual. The woman said that what followed - more men and more sexual contact - was rape. At various times over what might have lasted more than an hour, she said she tried to end the encounter, verbally and physically, but was prevented. Players denied this. The university largely agreed with her, finding her accounts more credible than the players’ denials. Hennepin County prosecutors have declined to press charges.

Examining players’ text messages that chronicled parts of the incident and referred to women with derogatory terms, university investigators concluded there existed a “collective effort by (some) accused students to deny this potentially sexually harassing activity.”

What’s the status of the players? Of the 10 who have been suspended indefinitely, five have been recommended for expulsion - KiAnte Hardin, Ray Buford, Dior Johnson, Tamarion Johnson and Carlton Djam, according to an attorney representing them. The players up for a one-year suspension are Seth Green, Mark Williams, Kobe McCrary, Antoine Winfield Jr., with Antonio Shenault being considered for probation. Many of the players have been prevented from playing in various games this season as a result of prior fallout from the incident.

What’s next? The U’s disciplinary process has not completely played out. Players can appeal, and their attorney has said they plan to. In the meantime, on the football side, it’s unclear whether the U, which finished its season 8-4, will play in the Holiday Bowl. On Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton attempted to diffuse the boycott threat, urging that players and President Eric Kaler meet “face to face.”

Kaler released a statement Friday evening saying the players “thus far declined” his offer to meet.

Friday morning, Gophers players met with a lawyer representing the 10 players who have been suspended from the team in downtown Minneapolis, plotting their strategy on how to move forward in their boycott. Later, sources told the Star Tribune the players were planning an afternoon meeting with some university Regents for potential mediation. The sources said a meeting with Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle could follow.

Kaler wrote that he hopes eligible players will take advantage of the reward of going to the Holiday Bowl but added that the university “will not change our values or our code of conduct for the sake of a bowl game.”


He added he hopes to meet with the players before making a decision on whether the Gophers are going to play in the bowl game, but acknowledged the decision on whether to play must happen soon “out of respect to the Holiday Bowl Committee.”

Rape is a crime. Has anyone been charged?

No. Various people representing the players - including attorneys and players’ families, have disputed various aspects of the woman’s account. Some have said it was consensual. Hennepin County prosecutors declined to prosecute, saying in a statement: “There is insufficient admissible evidence for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either force was used, or that the victim was physically helpless as defined by law in a sexual encounter.”

Why suspensions but no charges? That’s impossible to answer fully because the university has said privacy laws prevent officials from discussing details. However, we do know that the U’s process for discipline and a court’s process for criminal convictions are different. Court convictions are based on guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while the U’s threshold is based on a “preponderance of evidence” - a lower bar. In the end, the U concluded the disciplined players violated aspects of university policies, including “sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence,” “sexual harassment” and a section of the student conduct code relating to integrity. These are different from crimes.

Was the incident recorded? Yes. This was revealed when six players - the initial four plus Kiondre Thomas and Carlton Djam - were served with restraining orders in October that prevented the players from entering TCF Bank Stadium. At least one of the restraining orders alleged sharing of explicit recordings of the encounter. No recordings have been made public, but on Friday we learned that the recordings appear to capture only the early parts of the incident.

Wasn’t this whole thing settled? Yes and no. The restraining orders were lifted in November after the woman and the players reached an agreement. Under the agreement, the players and the petitioner are to have no contact while she attends the University of Minnesota. In addition, the players agreed not to file civil lawsuits against the woman. The settlement was reached after a morning of testimony and about 90 minutes of afternoon discussions between the parties involved: the petitioner, the players, their attorneys and Hennepin County Judge Mel Dickson. Afterward, the woman said: “I’m glad this is over. … This has never been about punishing anyone. I just wanted to feel safe. Because of the resolution we came to, now I can.” However, that settlement doesn’t appear to have prevented the U from taking action.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune contributed to this report.

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