Minnesota Gopher Football Team Boycott Until Suspensions Are Lifted
The Holiday Bowl prep has come to a screeching halt. The Minnesota football team announced Thursday night that it would boycott all team activities until the suspensions of ten football players are lifted. The Gophers have been preparing to take on Washington State in the Holiday Bowl on December 27th.
Suspensions for 10
On Tuesday, the University of Minnesota suspended 10 of their football players as a result of allegations going back to September. The original allegations included restraining orders on five players: KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson, Ray Buford, Tamarion Johnson and Carlton Djam.
The restraining orders were lifted on November 2nd, when all parties involved settled on an agreement. There were no formal charges filed or arrests made due to insufficient evidence.
The EOAA Investigation
The University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) opened an investigation. As a result of the EOAA probe, the original five players were named as well as Seth Green, Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams, Antoine Winfield Jr., Antonio Shenault who were ultimately suspended. The EOAA has recommend expulsion for several players.
Thursday afternoon, the Gophers refused to practice. Instead, seniors Drew Wolitarsky, Mitch Leidner, and Duke Anyanwu stood with the suspended members and the entire team behind them. Wolitarsky read from a two-page prepared statement with the players’ demands. To carry it a step furthe,r the football players then took to Twitter with the hashtag #WeHadEnough to continue to show support for their suspended brothers. Wolitarsky stated
“The boycott will remain in effect until due process is followed, and the suspensions for all ten players involved are lifted”.
The football players decided to protest after a meeting with Athletic Director Mark Coyle left them feeling enraged and unsatisfied. Coyle failed to provide acceptable reasoning for the suspensions. Consequently, there is some confusion as to whether Coyle or head coach Tracey Claeys decided on the suspensions. Meanwhile, Claeys tweeted his support Thursday night.
Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world! 〽️🏈
— T Claeys (@t_claeys) December 16, 2016
To Be Continued
As this story continues to unfold, Mark Neville, Executive Director of the National Funding Holiday Bowl issued a statement:
“We are continuing to prepare for the National Funding Holiday Bowl on December 27, however, we are aware of the situation at the University of Minnesota and are monitoring it closely.”
Speculations are being made that Northern Illinois University would “likely play” if the Gophers football boycott continues.