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Minnesota football team ends boycott, will play in Holiday Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota football team said it will resume practices and play in the upcoming Holiday Bowl -- ending its boycott of the game and all team activities until the university reinstated 10 players suspended over sexual assault accusations, CBS Minnesota reports.

In a statement to the press on Saturday, the team said it had a discussion with university President Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle on Friday. It said all parties agreed that the teammates would receive a fair hearing by a diverse review panel, and that the team would also use its status as public figures “to bring more exposure to the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women.”

The school declined the players’ request to reinstate the suspended players.

“We now ask that you, the members of the media, our fans, and the general public hold all of us accountable for ensuring that our teammates are treated fairly, along with any and all victims of sexual assault,” the statement said. “We look forward to representing the University of Minnesota and the state of Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl in a way that makes all of you proud.”  

Meanwhile on Saturdya night, University of Minnesota students and community members joined together in response to the suspension of 10 Gopher football players, CBS Minnesota reports

They held a rally outside of TCF Bank Stadium, chanting “she is not alone, she is not alone” to show their support for survivors of sexual assault.

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The University of Minnesota community held a rally in support of sexual assault survivors on Dec. 17, 2016.  CBS Minnesota

They also stood with signs in solidarity with victims.

Those who organized the rally say it’s important for survivors to know there are people out there who believe them.

“I think one of the most powerful ways that people learn that they are not alone is when other people tell their stories and identify themselves as survivors,” Break the Silence founder Sarah Super said.

Organizers also say the rally is an effort to break the silence that surrounds sexual violence.

The Holiday Bowl will take place in San Diego on Dec. 27 against Washington State. Kaler said on Saturday that teammates were supporting their players, not sexual violence. 

After the university’s first football game of the season, four players were accused of sexual assault by a 22-year-old female student. The victim said she had been drinking but remembers “a line of people, like they were waiting for their turn.”

No charges were filed against the players. The victim filed a restraining order against them.

A university investigation included additional players. All 10 were then suspended from the football team. 

The players’ attorney, Lee Hutton, says he doesn’t understand how, with no new evidence, his clients can be suspended. But the university has stood firm, insisting on a due process hearing next week that would entail a final decision on status.