University of Minnesota president Eric W. Kaler addressing the media today regarding the reneged player protest.
On Thursday, Minnesota football players threatened to boycott any football-related activities—including their upcoming appearance in the Holiday Bowl—in protest of the indefinite suspension of 10 players amidst a Title IX sexual assault investigation. But here we are, just two days later and 10 days away from the bowl appearance, and players have decided to drop their protest and prepare for the game.
The players released a statement to members of the press today, outlining their rationale for halting their boycott. It seems that they realized that there was no possibility of reversing the suspension.
It also seems like someone gave them a talking to about the kind of message their initial statement sent, which drew ire over the past couple of days. The first statement, released Thursday, made no mention of sexual assault, and included a not-so-vague allusion to the language of a certain sexual assault-endorsing president elect. (However, in the current statement, the players still seem to be murky on the concept of due process.)
Here is today's statement in full:
Let me first state so there is no misperception: sexual harassment and violence against women have no place on the campus, on our team, in our society, and at no time is it ever condoned. We recognize that there is a legal threshold and there is a moral threshold and a standard of values set forth by this university. There is only one acceptable way to treat all women and all men, and that is with the utmost of respect at all times.
On Tuesday, we along with everyone else, learned of the suspension of 10 of our teammates. Five of them had been previously suspended for an incident where they were not charged with any crime. We are not here to judge nor defend their actions—that is for the authorities. We also learned that five additional teammates were indefinitely suspended. We had questions, and still do not understand how such severe consequences could be vetted out without proper due process.
We were disappointed at the lack of communication from the administration and their unwillingness to share information about their decision, under the cover of student privacy. We also understand that they have requirements that they need to follow about sharing information. Yet at the same time, we observed how our teammates' names and pictures were shared with the world, and reputations ruined.
We stated that we were going to boycott all football activities until our 10 teammates had their suspensions lifted. We also had a larger goal and that was to have an open discussion about the lack of due process that occurs when an accusation is made against anyone.
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 ot happen.
Our senior group had a meeting with President Kaler and AD Mark Coyle last night, Friday the 16th, where they agreed to the following requests: That all ten of these players have a fair hearing—which includes a diverse review panel. Number two, a showing of support for our team and the character shown by the great majority of our players. Finally, that we as a team will use our status as public figures to bring more exposure to the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women. We will have more details on our plans for that at a later time.
Therefore, we would like to announce that we are ending our boycott and will immediately begin preparation for playing in the Holiday Bowl. As a team, we understand that what has occurred these past few days, and playing football for the University of Minnesota is larger than just us. 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. We will not... and we recognize that we must not, let these people down.
We now ask that you, 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. We also ask that the public dialogue related to the apparent lack of due process in a university system is openly discussed and evaluated. As football players, we know that we represent this University and this state and that we are held to a higher standard. 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.
Our thoughts and prayers are for the well-being of the women 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.
As you can see in the videos above, University of Minnesota president Eric W. Kaler addressed the discussions over the past couple of days this morning, and stood firm on his decision for the suspension. He also wanted to clarify that the players were standing up for their teammates, and not condoning sexual assault.