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Iowa Reopens Investigation Into Assaults On Marching Band After Students Call Bullshit On Initial Admin Response

Photo: Matthew Holst (Getty Images)

University of Iowa administrators have reopened an investigation into reports of physical assault, as well as sexual and verbal abuse, against the marching band at the hands of Iowa State fans last Saturday, according to a report from Vanessa Miller of The Gazette. The decision comes after members of the band openly criticized on social media the lack of action from their school’s leaders, and revealed details of what they experienced in Ames, Iowa.

The incidents are bad in and of themselves—band members told The Gazette that Iowa State fans hurled racial slurs, subjected them to sexual harassment and assault, threw projectiles that left bruises, and broke one woman’s ribs when they shoved her to the ground—but even worse is how the details were a far cry from how vague administration was on the subject. Iowa’s athletic director Gary Barta, for example, referred to what happened as “inappropriate actions”—more on Barta later. Contrast that with this quote from a tenor sax player named Corey Knopp, and it’s clear how much of an understatement Bartra had given:

“A fan shoved me out of his way as we were marching in formation back to the buses,” Knopp told The Gazette in an interview. “He decided to cut through the band and shoved me out of his way. I yelled, ‘Do not put your hands on me sir,’ and he yelled back, ‘(expletive) you.’”

It was unlike fan abuse he’d experienced before. “No fan has ever touched me, let alone pushed me,” he said. “I was shocked he actually felt the need to do so.”

Although he didn’t suffer lasting injuries, Knopp said some of his peers did.

“A girl’s ribs are broken because of fan interaction,” he said. “A member of the band was cornered by a number of males and was assaulted.”

Fans pulled at the drum line and attacked members, Knopp said. They threw beer cans and shook and sprayed them at the members’ feet as they marched.

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What really twisted the knife with regards to this horrific experience for the band was how Iowa administrators bungled the whole thing. First came Barta’s initial statement that he had reached out to Iowa State so that his investigative team could “to gather additional information,” but Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard noted that no contact had actually been made with the Cyclones up to that point—it’s also worth pointing out that Pollard pretty much implied there was little reason to believe an altercation had happened at all. Barta and Pollard then released a joint statement Wednesday that seemed to hint at some action getting taken. But about 24 hours later, Barta announced that the investigation that had been taking place had come to an end. Unsurprisingly, members of Iowa’s marching band were pissed.

“Gotta love Iowa athletics and the AD,” Knopp wrote on Facebook. “They tell us yesterday they’re investigating the violent acts against us in Ames. They tell us things will change (with no specifics) and they will not sweep this under the rug. They tell us we need to trust them that they have our backs all the way up the ladder.

“Well, come to find out today the University of Iowa and Iowa Athletics are no longer investigating,” he wrote. “People were physically assaulted … No ‘alleges’ or ‘maybes.’ This happened. Put yourself in our shoes. Kids. Marching in formation back to our buses after a long day. Getting shoved and having beer cans shaken and sprayed at our feet. Getting slapped because of the words on our uniform (IOWA). Getting pushed so hard that someone’s (not going to name this person) ribs are broken.

“That is completely unacceptable.”

According to a trumpet player named Nathan Topping—who was hit in the arm with a beer bottle, which left a big bruise— the news of the investigation’s end came in the middle of a rehearsal, and shattered any remaining trust the band had towards administration, which led to an outpouring of social media posts, like the one Knopp wrote above. It’s worth noting that, according to students, Iowa officials told band members to “be careful what you post on social media.”

Though a spokesman for the university told The Gazette said that an investigation would continue into what happened last Saturday—with the support of President Bruce Harreld, Iowa State University Wendy Wintersteen and University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook—the decision to reopen this case might be too little too late.

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