Nine of the 10 Minnesota football players who were temporarily or permanently suspended at the conclusion of a 2016 university sexual assault investigation are suing the school for $5 million apiece.
The lawsuit claims Minnesota exhibited “intentional discrimination based on Plaintiffs’ race and gender” during the school’s investigation of a September 2016 reported sexual assault. An initial investigation by Minneapolis police did not result in any charges because they felt they didn’t have a winnable case, but an investigation by the university’s EEOC department resulted in the suspension of the 10 involved players, with five recommended for expulsion. The university offered the following statement to ESPN in response to the lawsuit:
“We are aware of the lawsuit served on behalf of several current and former students,” the school said in a statement. “The University thoughtfully and thoroughly responds when faced with disturbing allegations, and provides extensive process to students accused of misconduct, including the opportunity to be heard during thorough investigations, panel hearings, and Provost review. Further, aggrieved students have a right to review by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. We will vigorously defend the University.”
The two investigations took two fairly different approaches. The university investigation cited text messages sent by the players throughout its report while the police’s supplemental reports skipped them completely; the university investigators also interviewed 28 people, as opposed to the police department’s list of 10.
Minnesota’s football team, egged on by former head coach Tracy Claeys and his public displays of support for the players, then threatened to boycott if the 10 players were not reinstated. Five of the players were eventually reinstated after filing appeals, while four of the remaining five had their expulsions upheld; the remaining player had his expulsion reduced to a one-year suspension. Three players are on the roster for the upcoming 2018 season. An external panel concluded last fall that Minnesota’s EEOC team followed protocol in its investigation.
The lawyer representing the players, Dave Madgett, told ESPN that the university was biased, claiming it displayed “this arcane belief that these guys are just testosterone-filled guys,” throughout its investigation. He then cited the fact that the woman in the case matched with one of the players on the dating app Tinder as evidence that the following group sex acts were consensual. He said the legal team chose not to include the woman in the lawsuit because he believes, “she got caught up,” reasoning that she woke up the next morning and went through the entire sexual assault reporting process with police solely because she felt like she “didn’t make some great choices.” He added, while discussing the male-football-player bias, “I can’t explain it any other way.”
You can read the full lawsuit below: