On social media, survivors, advocates and fans divided over Gophers boycott

U President Eric Kaler and athletics director Mark Coyle suspended ten football players over a sexual assault investigation.

Screenshots+of+Twitter+responses+to+the+Gophers+football+team%27s+decision+to+boycott.+Fans%2C+students%2C+and+those+involved+in+the+athletic+program+took+to+Twitter+to+voice+their+opinion+on+the+situation.

Daily Reporting

Screenshots of Twitter responses to the Gophers football team’s decision to boycott. Fans, students, and those involved in the athletic program took to Twitter to voice their opinion on the situation.

Jessie Bekker

After the Gophers football team announced their boycott on all football activities Thursday evening — including the Dec. 27 Holiday bowl — student leaders, sexual assault victim-survivors and their advocates, and longtime Gophers fans are divided on whether to side with the team or University of Minnesota administrators.

University President Eric Kaler and athletics director Mark Coyle suspended ten football players from the team Tuesday after the school’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) released its recommendations after investigating the players’ involvement in an alleged Sept. 2 sexual assault.

People have since taken to social media to voice their opinions.

“Stand with survivors. Love survivors. Believe survivors. Protect survivors. Be in solidarity with survivors. #WeHadEnough,” tweeted Abeer Syedah, the University’s student body president. 

She’s backed by outspoken sexual assault victim-survivors, like Abby Honold, a University fifth-year student majoring in early education who was raped in November of 2014.

“Every SINGLE one of us needs to fix our attitudes surrounding sexual assault and supporting survivors. We are not doing enough,” she tweeted Friday, closing out a thread of tweets related to her experience as a victim-survivor of sexual assault.

At a press conference Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton called on Kaler to meet with the team and “diffuse” the situation.

“We have so many successes in Minnesota that don’t get national attention and these are the things that do … it’s a bad black eye and it will get worse if it does not quickly resolve,” Dayton said. 

Honold said she hopes the University upholds its ruling, adding that a reversal now would “set a bad precedent for future cases.”

The Gophers football team has denied accusations that players were involved in the reported sexual assault of a University student Sept. 2, after the Gophers home-opener against Oregon State.

For victims of sexual assault, denials can feel invalidating, Honold said.

“It makes you question yourself, and it makes you very afraid to open up to people about what happened to you,” she said.

Denial is common, said Jeanne Ronayne, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Rape.

“We know that this is the most underreported crime,” Ronayne said. “One of the big reasons it is underreported is because those survivors feel they won’t be believed.”

Statistically, potential victim-survivors fabricate their stories at a rate of 2 to 8 percent, Ronayne said.

Diehard Gophers fans have expressed split opinions on the team’s boycott.

Nicholas Heinecke, a University alumnus, called the boycott “absolutely disgusting” in a post on Facebook. “If the school caves for this display, I’m backing out of the season tickets my family has held since before I was born,” he wrote.

Greg Aase, a University alumnus, said on Twitter: “As a #Gophers season tix holder, I support the team. There are lot of good kids on the program and the suspensions paint all negatively.”

The team and its coaches, including head coach Tracey Claeys, have publicly stood up for one another.

“Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!” Claeys tweeted Thursday.