University of Minnesota Football Team Takes a Stand for Due Process

Gophers players, from left, Mitch Leidner, Drew Wolitarsky and Duke Anyanwu tell media they will boycott team activities over suspension of 10 players on Thursday night at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. (Pioneer Press: Andy Greder)

We’ve had a lot of politics in football lately, from Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem to the University of Missouri football team striking in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter.

Now the University of Minnesota’s football team is striking as well. Their cause? Due process for some of their team mates.

“Effective immediately, we will boycott all football activities,” Drew Wolitarsky, one of the team’s senior leaders, said during a press conference. “The boycott will remain in effect until due process is followed, and the suspensions for all 10 players involved are lifted.”

Here’s what happened.

Back in September there was an accusation of sexual assault made against some of the players by an unnamed female. Law enforcement authorities investigated. No arrests were made. Prosecutors in Hennepin County declined to press charges.

But the University of Minnesota decided to act anyway. “Gophers players were furious when they heard Tuesday that 10 teammates would be suspended from all team activities leading up to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 27,” Forum News Service reports. “The suspensions were the result of the school’s office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action filing an 82-page report that recommended five players be expelled from school, four be suspended for a year and one be placed on probation.”

How can the school arrive at a conclusion of guilt when the criminal justice system cannot? In 2011 the Obama administration sent a letter to universities instructing them to investigate and adjudicate allegations of sexual assault on campus. The universities responded by establishing tribunals which use a much looser standard of evidence to establish guilt or innocence than the criminal justice system.

“Instead of having to be proven ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ a Title IX investigation uses a ‘preponderance of evidence,’ which is supposed to favor the side with more convincing evidence and the probability of its truth and accuracy,” the Forum News Service reports.

Not only do these campus tribunals require a much lower burden of proof for conviction, but often the accused are denied basic rights like access to legal counsel and the right to confront their accuser. Here in North Dakota, after a student named Caleb Warner got railroaded under similar circumstances at UND in Grand Forks, lawmakers passed legislation requiring that students have access to an attorney.

Regardless, what the Obama administration has done is create a system of kangaroo courts on our college campuses which produce one injustice after another as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has documented.

There is a federal lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s Title IX directive, and I suppose we can be hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump might reverse this foolishness once he takes office, but until then students such as the players from the Gophers football team are going to be at risk.

Kudos for the team for taking a stand. I don’t know anything about the guilt or innocence of the players targeted by the University of Minnesota, but I know we cannot trust the process the university used to arrive at that conclusion.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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