Several of the players–accused of gang rape–claim they were suspended, expelled or otherwise disciplined due to racial and sexist stereotypes.
A federal judge sided with the University of Minnesota, dismissing a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by a group of former football players accused of sexual assault.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said the Gopher linemen had “no factual support for their allegations of disparate treatment,” even though their complaint alleged that educators “assume” that athletes are likely to partake in sexual misconduct.
The players also claimed they were victims of “extreme gender bias.” Media coverage of the alleged scandal was intense, especially in Minnesota and at a local level.
The suit says scrutiny and contemporary trends caused undue “pressure to crack down on alleged sex offenders.” Meanwhile, the players also argued that an ongoing U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights investigation forced the university to reconsider its “failure to properly address charges of sexual harassment by white men in the athletics department.”
The athletes—who maintain their innocence—say disparate, outside forces influenced the University of Minnesota’s decision to take disciplinary action against some of them, even while lacking objective evidence.
However, Frank determined there was no merit inherent to the group’s claims.
The players had initially wanted to recoup unspecified damages for the ‘willful and malicious discrimination of the players after a woman alleged she was the victim of a gang rape’ in September 2016.
The victim, says the Star Tribune, ‘alleged that as many as a dozen football players at an off-campus party repeatedly raped her or watched and cheered as others did.’
No criminal charges were filed against the players, but a university investigation found 10 Gophers athletes culpable.
While some of the players managed to clear their names or escape without consequence, five were either suspended or expelled for disciplinary code violations. Several of the disciplined athletes said the school discriminated against them, either on account of their gender or race.
They maintain that the purported gang rape was, in fact, a consensual encounter.
But the University of Minnesota, in attempting to dismiss the suit, did admit to discrimination—albeit “not on the grounds of gender or race.”
“Instead, the process discriminated among the student-athletes, not against them, by carefully determining who had violated the student conduct code and who had not,” the motion to dismiss said.
According to KARE11, the complaint named the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents as defendants, along with school President Eric Kaler and its Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action director, Tina Marisam.