Nine former and current football players for the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (UMN) — all of whom are African American — filed a lawsuit against the university’s president, the head of its Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA), and the school’s Board of Regents on June 8.
The players, who were each accused of misconduct surrounding the alleged gang rape of a white female student in September 2016, claim that UMN discriminated against them in its investigation of the incident, which resulted in five of them being expelled or suspended. The other players were cleared of wrongdoing by the school, and a police investigation into the incident resulted in the case being dropped by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, with no criminal charges filed due to insufficient evidence.
Now, the players contend that the EOAA investigation was biased, operating on an “archaic assumption that male football players had a propensity for sexual misconduct against women,” according to the lawsuit. They also assert that UMN ignored certain evidence and did not conduct thorough interviews of all witnesses. Furthermore, they maintain that the woman who filed the sexual assault complaint actually consented to having sex with five of the plaintiffs as well as a prospective recruit to the team.
The students argue that the allegations of sexual misconduct against them were used to “deflect public scrutiny” from separate accusations of sexual wrongdoing against white men in UMN’s athletic department, including former athletic director Norwood Teague, who resigned in 2015 in response to allegations of sexual harassment.
According to the players’ attorney David Madgett, the young men have “lost scholarship opportunities” as well as “their potential careers in professional sports” because of the case. As a result, they are seeking unspecified financial compensation, a removal of the accusations from their student records, and for four of the plaintiffs, reinstatement as UMN students in good standing.
An external review commissioned by UMN claims that investigators followed school policies and standard legal procedures throughout the case. The university says it plans to “vigorously defend” itself against any accusations of bias.