Several Black former and current University of Minnesota football players argued that they’re the victims of the school’s attempt to appease federal authorities in an alleged 2016 campus gang rape of a white female student.
The attorney for the nine athletes filed a federal lawsuit on Friday that accused the university of racial and gender discrimination, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
The university investigated the incident and expelled or suspended five of the players. They claimed that the sexual contact was consensual. The county prosecutor, however, did not file criminal charges against the athletes.
“The prior instances of sexual misconduct by athletics department administrators and coaches involved perpetrators who were white,” the lawsuit stated, adding that the players are “scapegoats” because of their race.
University of Minnesota officials defended the school’s handling of the case in a statement responding to the lawsuit. At the same time, Abby Honold, a University of Minnesota graduate and rape survivor, who is an advocate for victims of sexual assault, explained to the news outlet that the standards for criminal evidence is lower in proceedings under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive public funds.
Attorney David Madgett, who is representing the players, accused the university of using the players as “pawns” and the university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) of having a bias against male athletes, according to ESPN. They wanted to “appease federal investigators,” Madgett added.
President Barack Obama’s administration had taken a strong stance in the battle to end campus sexual assault. When the alleged assault happened, federal investigators under his administration kept a close eye on how universities handled these cases.
However, President Donald Trump’s administration has taken steps to rescind federal guidelines that Obama established to aggressively police campus rape and other forms of sexual misconduct. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has argued that the guidelines diminish the due process rights of male students accused of rape.
The lawsuit seeks seeking $45 million in damages, according to ESPN. It also calls on the school to reinstate the four expelled students and to expunge records of the alleged assault.