District Court Dismiss Gender Discrimination Claim Brought by Football Players in Sexual Misconduct Case

Feb 24, 2023

A federal judge has dismissed the claim of nine former University of Minnesota football players, who claimed they were victims of gender discrimination after they were accused of sexual assault in 2016.

In granting the University’s motion for summary judgment, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to “produce sufficient evidence” to support their claim.

By way of background, the incident occurred in 2016 when the victim alleged that she was raped at an off-campus party by as many as a dozen players, who either participated in the rape or cheered the others on. The University determined that 10 players were guilty of sexual misconduct. Five players were subsequently expelled or suspended for violating the student conduct code, while the other five successfully appealed the finding.

The players, identified in the lawsuit as John Does, were all Black. They initially filed claims for both racial and gender discrimination, but the claim for racial discrimination was dismissed, leaving only the claim for gender discrimination, pursuant to Title IX. The players supported the latter claim by noting that no criminal charges were filed. However, the judge was not persuaded by that argument, writing that a lack of criminal prosecution “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The court also found that allegations of bias by University investigators (specifically that they used “manipulative tactics”) as well as pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, were unfounded.

The University of Minnesota was pleased with the ruling.

“The important work of preventing sexual misconduct is ongoing,” a spokesperson said in a statement on the case. “We will continue to focus on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response through the president’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct and other programs for our students, faculty, and staff.”

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