December 15, 2016 11:25 PM
University of Minnesota Gopher football players boycotted practice Thursday just days after 10 players were suspended from the team.
They are also boycotting the Holiday Bowl unless their demands are met.
"Effective immediately, we will boycott all football activities," said senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky. "The boycott will remain in effect until due process is followed and the suspensions for all 10 players involved are lifted."
Wolitarsky made the statements at Rod Wallace practice field on the university campus with his teammates lined up behind him.
"We the united Gopher football team, issue the statement to take back the reputation and integrity of our program and our brothers who have faced unjust investigation without due process," said Wolitarsky. "We're concerned that our brothers have been named publicly with reckless disregard in violation of their constitutional rights. We are now compelled to speak for our team and take back our program."
"It was largely motivated by a recent disappointing meeting conducted by (Athletics Director) Mark Coyle. We wanted answers, but received misleading statements," added Wolitarsky.
"Moreover the actions of President (Eric) Kaler have breached duty to not only those accused, but to all of us," said Wolitarsky. "We demand a meeting with the Board of Regents without the presence of Kaler and Coyle on how to make our program great again."
"We also want to address the unjust suspensions and other concerns in this closed-door meeting," said Wolitarsky. "We further request that Kaler and Coyle are held accountable for their actions."
The Gophers were preparing to play in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27.
"We note that the Holiday Bowl Committee, Washington State and the fans are affected by this decision. To that end we respectively request that the Holiday Bowl Committee be patient during this time while Mark Coyle considers reversing his decision to suspend," said Wolitarsky.
Mark Neville, Executive Director, National Funding Holiday Bowl released 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.
There was a players-only meeting Thursday afternoon. Following the meeting they brought head coach Tracy Claeys in to tell him of the plans.
University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and Athletics Director Mark Coyle issued the following joint statement:
We understand that a lot of confusion and frustration exists as a result of this week's suspension of 10 Gopher Football players from all team activities. The reality is that not everyone can have all of the facts, and unfortunately the University cannot share more information due to federal laws regarding student privacy. We fully support our Gopher football players and all of our student-athletes. Situations like this are always difficult and the decision was made in consultation with and has the full support of President Eric Kaler. The decision was based on facts and is reflective of the University's values.
We want to continue an open dialogue with our players and will work to do that over the coming days. It's important that we continue to work together as we move through this difficult time.
Meanwhile, head football coach Claeys sent the following tweet:
“Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!”
The degree of punishments varied among the 10 players, but it was recommended at least two of the players be expelled.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office ultimately decided not to press charges with regards to the incident that happened at a Dinkytown apartment complex last September.
A source close to the investigation told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that three players-Seth Green, Antonio Shenault and Antoine Winfield Jr. - were suspended despite not having sexual contact with the woman.
Antoine Winfield Sr. responded Thursday to the allegations listed in the report.
"I can only speak to the part that my son was included in that and I knew from the first time I read it that it was untrue," Winfield Sr. said. "I just want the facts to come out and they need to come out now."
Updated: December 15, 2016 11:25 PM
Created: December 15, 2016 05:32 PM
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