University seeks dismissal of football players’ discrimination lawsuit

The motion is in response to a June lawsuit that claims the University discriminated against the football players in its investigation into an alleged sexual assault.

The Gopher football team huddles during a time out on Saturday, Sept. 15 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Courtney Deutz

The Gopher football team huddles during a time out on Saturday, Sept. 15 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Madeline Deninger

The University of Minnesota has motioned to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former and current Gophers’ football players.

The lawsuit, filed in June, states the school unfairly targeted the nine football players, all of whom are black, in its 2016 investigation into an alleged sexual assault on the basis of their sex and race. 

“Because of Plaintiffs’ gender, and to support an archaic assumption that male football players had a propensity for sexual misconduct against women, the [University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action] investigators deprived Plaintiffs of the fair and impartial investigation to which they were entitled under the U.S. Constitution and University policies and procedures,” the lawsuit reads. 

The lawsuit also alleges the University approached similar cases involving white individuals differently. 

Ten players were suspended for their involvement in the alleged September 2016 sexual assault. Following an investigation by the EOAA and a hearing by the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittee, four of the players were expelled and two were given one-year suspensions. After appealing to the Provost, one of those players was able to lift his suspension. 

The University’s motion to dismiss the case, filed Friday, states the school acted appropriately in its investigation and did not base its decision on the race or sex of the players. 

“This process did indeed ‘discriminate,’ but not on the grounds of gender or race as Plaintiffs allege. Instead, the process discriminated among the student-athletes, not against them, by carefully determining who had violated the Student Conduct Code and who had not. The five student-athletes found responsible for sexual misconduct were sanctioned for one reason and one reason only: their conduct on the morning of September 2, 2016. It had nothing to do with their gender. It had nothing to do with their race,” the memo reads. 

The memo also argues the nine players’ allegations of defamation and emotional distress can’t be supported. It states the statements University President Eric Kaler made regarding the investigation were in response to public interest and did not make any claims or assertions.