| March 22, 2018

Column: Get Back to Practice

December 19, 2016

Sports and boycotts go hand-in-hand.

While boycotting sporting events or teams is not always an effective way to create change, it certainly makes a statement.

Minnesota football players made a statement Thursday when they announced a boycott on football activities because 10 teammates were suspended last week. The team said the boycott will be in effect until players are given due process and suspension is lifted for all 10 players.

Minnesota has not given reason for the suspensions or facts surrounding the case, citing student privacy laws.

Ray Buford Sr., father of suspended Minnesota defensive back Ray Buford Jr., said the suspensions are the result of a Title IX investigation by the university.

The proceedings were separate from a police investigation, which centered around reports of a sexual assault Sept. 2.

Police records show a woman told officers she was sexually assaulted by several men, including some of the suspended players.

Several players said it was consensual. The woman said her sexual contact with two men was consensual, but not with four others.

One player recorded incident. An investigator who watched the video stated the woman did not appear upset and the contact seemed consensual.

According to a report from ESPN, the primary complaint from the players is when the suspensions occurred. Instead of waiting until the Title IX investigation hearing in January, the school moved to suspend the players before the Holiday Bowl.

The victim filed a restraining order during the season, which prevented four players from attending three games because the victim is involved in game-day operations staff.

No one was arrested, charges were not pressed and players returned to the team.

A settlement was reached and the restraining order lifted Nov. 2.

Now, the boycott ended Saturday, because really, what school is going to let their team boycott a bowl game?

But here’s the thing — if someone says they were raped, they were raped. Intoxication or how things look to an outside party don’t matter. Rape allegations should be taken seriously and punishment should be quick. Rape is a heinous crime. Crimes have consequences.

Yes, sometimes people say they were raped when they weren’t. But I don’t know many women who would risk their safety by accusing nationally-known football players of rape.

Prosecutors don’t get to decide who goes to what college – that’s the university’s job.

Universities don’t have to follow the same rules as a court of law. If it’s determined there was a code of ethics violation or other unsatisfactory behavior happened, it’s the university’s prerogative to enact consequences. And it’s within a school’s right to.

Football players, as highly visible representatives of a university, are often held to a higher standard of personal and professional ethics than regular students.

Universities do not want a poor representation of their student body on national television.

In light of the many universities involved in Title IX violation-related lawsuits, it’s understandable Minnesota took such a quick and hard stance against the 10 players suspended. This should be the reaction, regardless of a lawsuit or not.

If Minnesota’s staff believes these players are not fit to represent the university, they shouldn’t be playing. Participating in DI athletics is not a right — it’s a privilege.

These players aren’t being denied an education, they’re being denied an experience. The most important part of college is receiving an education. Students of all backgrounds and experiences should be able to earn an education in a safe environment.

As a female student, I wouldn’t feel safe on campus after being sexually assaulted.

Because student safety is important, the punishment for sexual assault at many schools is severe. It should be. If a student commits a serious act of violence against another, the victim shouldn’t have to see their attacker on the way to English class.

There are consequences to committing crimes, even if those consequences don’t come in the form of a jail sentence and community service.

I come from a town where athletes don’t have consequences for bad behavior. I grew up knowing football dominated and everything else was secondary. The main goal was always winning football games.

Many colleges have that same attitude. Crimes from theft to sexual assault are often ignored or covered up by universities aiming to win football games.

This is unacceptable.

In sweeping a wrongdoing under the rug, these players aren’t experiencing any consequences.

I was taught about consequences as a child. If I didn’t get my chores done, I couldn’t play with my dinosaurs.

Not everyone is taught about consequences from an early age, but that’s the beauty of college. It gives people a chance to catch up on life skills they may have missed growing up. Whether it’s boiling water or recognizing fault in a situation, students must learn actions have ramifications.

Being suspended isn’t a death sentence — it’s a warning. A suspension gives students of all involvements a wake-up call, an official notice to get their act together and improve their behavior or academic performance.

It may be hard to support the school’s decision when close friends and teammates are held accountable, but it’s alarming the team isn’t supporting the decision. I would hope that if any of my friends every committed a serious crime, there would be swift consequences.

At first whiff of the boycott debacle, the NCAA should have made a statement supporting Minnesota’s decision. Then, the Holiday Bowl should have booted Minnesota from the lineup.

If players can’t appreciate an opportunity, they shouldn’t have it.

Now, this would have bene a crazy, uphill battle for Northern Illinois. The athletic department would’ve had a week or two to arrange travel to and from the game, as well as bring players back to campus and start practicing again.

But the NCAA and the Holiday Bowl had a chance to set an example and show that sexual assault is serious business and has consequences.

I’m a little disappointed that more sporting organizations didn’t take a hard stance with the Minnesota administration’s decision, but I’m glad the boycott has been resolved.

Students at every university across the country agree to abide by their university’s set of moral and ethical ideas. If those are hard to follow, and one does not like consequences, maybe they shouldn’t go to college.

And ollege athletics should not provide criminals a safe haven from consequences.

Tess Fox can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

Related Posts
No comments

There are currently no comments to show.