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9 Gopher football players file suit against U in connection with 2016 sex assault allegations

Players never charged but dropped from roster, prompting player boycott

June 08, 2018 - 11:21 am

Nine Gopher football players whose names were connected with a 2016 sexual assault are suing the University of Minnesota for racial and gender discrimination.  The suit was filed Friday morning in Federal Court, without naming the players.  

“It is a pointed attack on an administration which we think took liberties that they were not entitled to do,” said Dave Madgett, attorney for the players. “They’ve been torn apart in the court of public opinion.”

Madgett claims a case of Intentional discrimination based on race and gender, and the EOAA did things to “deflect criticism the U was facing for having previously turned a blind eye to charges of sexual harassment by white men.”

“I think we sometimes like to pretend it’s not there, but every single one of these players that was accused is black,” Madgett said.

The incident reportedly happened Labor Day weekend of 2016, but were never charged, and the players were originally suspended in mid-December as the team was preparing to play in the Holiday Bowl.

The Hennepin County attorney's office declined to press charged because of what they called insufficient evidence.

The team staged a boycott of practice that ended after several days.  

"All these kids' reputations are destroyed," said quarterback Mitch Leidner in the midst of the boycott. "Their names are destroyed and it's extremely difficult to get back, and it's very unfair for them."

Gopher coach Tracy Claeys came under fire for tweeting support for the players during the boycott.  

The team returned to practice following a meeting with U president Eric Kaler, and wound up beating Washington State on Dec. 27, 2016 in the Holiday Bowl for their ninth win of the season.

Claeys was fired Jan. 3, 2017.

The U eventually held hearings for the players and four of them were reinstated.

"We ask that you now, the members of the media, our fans, and the general public, hold all of us accountable for ensuring that our teammates are treated fairly, along with any and all victims of sexual assault," Gopher wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky read in a statement after the boycott ended.

"We also ask that the public dialogue related to the apparent lack of due process in our university system is openly discussed and evaluated," he continued.

In a statement, school officials say they'll vigorously defend its actions.

"We made a values-based decision, based on our values, and what we think is right," said Kaler after the boycott ended. "Are there consequence of decisions that sometimes people become unhappy? Yeah, that happened."