Usually damning leaked documents from a powerful institution are supposed to inspire protests.
Not end them. But that's what happened this past week, when the University of Minnesota football team announced it was planning to boycott the Holiday Bowl over what it perceived as mistreatment of 10 of its players.
Those players were accused of either actively participating in or not doing anything to prevent a gang rape at on-campus housing where a high number of freshman and sophomore Gophers players live. Minneapolis police investigated the incident, which is said to have begun as a consensual encounter between the victim, a college football player and a high school recruiting prospect, before several other members took advantage of the woman without her consent.
Cops turned their findings over to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, which determined there was insufficient evidence to prove the horrifying allegations "beyond a reasonable doubt."
That's a high standard of proof, much higher than the one set out in the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA), a federal law that gives schools the authority to investigate alleged civil rights violations on their own. The University of Minnesota did so, interviewing the victim and players, and upon completion of its findings, suspended the 10 players directly involved in what happened that night.
Soon after University president Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle announced those players were suspended -- at least through the bowl game, possibly for good -- the football squad picked a particularly bleak, ugly hill upon which to die. Led by team captain Drew Wolitarsky, players announced they would stand with their "brothers," those "falsely accused" young men who'd been hit with "unjust suspensions."
Wolitarsky also said the team wanted to "make our program great again," the Donald Trump-ian wording of which was not lost on anyone who'd lived in America this past 12 months.
Then someone leaked the whole 80-page EEOA report to KSTP and everyone decided it was probably a better idea to shut up for a while. Game on, said the Gophers. Uh, forget we said anything.
As Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins wrote over the weekend, the Minnesota players "get an F in civics for their boycott." By rushing to so strongly defend their teammates, despite not knowing what happened that night, the players showed "no recognition ... that women even exist on their campus."
Writes Jenkins: "There are a million good social-justice causes over which a major college football team could boycott. This isn’t one."
The same point is made rather cleverly in a short skit performed by some University of Minnesota students. Written and directed by U of M undergrad Kate McCarthy, the skit plays off the moving final scene of the Robin Williams movie Dead Poets Society.
Having seen that movie helps, but isn't required. All you need to get the joke is a brain, a heart, and the capacity not to reflexively defend someone accused of a terrible act... even if you like the way he plays football.
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