MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some University of Minnesota football players claim the school used them as scapegoats during its investigation into a sexual assault. Now, they are suing for racial and gender discrimination.
Ten players were benched two years ago after the alleged gang rape that grabbed headlines for months. Nine of them are involved in the lawsuit filed on Friday.
The 60-page lawsuit tells a different story of what happened that night in September of 2016. But, the players say the damage has already been done. While the U vows to defend the decisions the school made, Dave Madgett is representing the nine players.
“We think it was a fundamentally-flawed process,” Madgett said.
The attorney representing the nine players say this is not a battle against the University of Minnesota. Calling out the Regents, U President Eric Kaler and Tina Marisam — the head of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action — for their handling of what happened following that first victory of the season.
“It is a pointed attack on an administration which we think took liberties that they were not entitled to do,” Madgett said. “They’ve been torn apart in the court of public opinion.”
Madgett calls this the first time the football players get to publicly tell their side of the story. That five had consensual sex with that female student. The others swept up in the controversy were witnesses or friends of players. Madgett pointing to the EOAA’s promise to conduct impartial investigations.
“We will show time and time and time again that it was not that,” Madgett said.
Instead, Madgett claims a case of Intentional discrimination based on race and gender, and the EOAA did things to “deflect criticism the U was facing for having previously turned a blind eye to charges of sexual harassment by white men.”
“I think we sometimes like to pretend it’s not there, but every single one of these players that was accused is black,” Madgett said.
In a statement, the U promises to vigorously defend the school.
“The University thoughtfully and thoroughly responds when faced with disturbing allegations, and provides extensive process to students accused of misconduct,” the statement said.
No criminal charges were ever filed, but, according to Madgett, his clients have already been “cast as sex offenders, a public stigma they will never be able to escape.” He says web searches can prove that claim.
“One of those first things that pops up is going to be this, and that takes a lot of opportunities off the table for somebody,” Madgett said.
The lawsuit does not specify how much money players are seeking. The U did seek an independent investigation last summer into how it handled this case, which found the school complied with all applicable laws and its own rules.
We do know at least three players have left the school. Five are still football players at the U.