The University of Minnesota football team on Saturday ended its boycott and agreed to play in an upcoming bowl game, days after declaring a protest over the suspension of teammates found to have violated school policies against sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The team, which met with University President Eric W. Kaler, on Friday, had pledged to boycott the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl unless all 10 suspensions were lifted.
“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 to happen,” the team said in a statement Saturday, NBC News reported.
The boycott—which prompted the team’s head football coach to say he had “never been more proud of our kids”—followed a university investigation into 12 players accused of sexual assault. On Tuesday, the university announced it had found 10 of those students in violation of university policy on sexual harassment, including four who also violated policy on sexual assault, according to a report obtained by local station KSTP.
A criminal investigation into the incident has resulted in no prosecutions, the New York Times reported. And the accused athletes have maintained the sex was consensual.
When they announced the boycott, the football team claimed their teammates had been denied due process—a concern that has become part of the ongoing debate over the handling of sexual assault cases on college campuses across the country. Universities have struggled to establish sexual assault policies that balance justice for victims with fair hearings for both parties.
The players said Saturday that they reached an agreement with Kaler to ensure their teammates get a “fair hearing” with a “diverse review panel,” NBC News reported. The team also said it would “use our status as public figures to bring more exposure to the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women.”
“I think the statement by the students today around support for victims of sexual assault is important,” Kaler told reporters on Saturday, according to NBC News. “I will continue to amplify the fact that the football team’s action in support of their teammates was not in support of sexual violence.”
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