U of M football player says team didn’t consider alleged sexual assault victim

A University of Minnesota football player has provided new insight into what the team was thinking when it called a boycott of football activities to protest the suspension of 10 players who were accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a September party.

Junior Gaelin Elmore, of Somerset, Wis., told the Pioneer Press’ John Shipley that the team didn’t think about the alleged victim of the assault.

I think some people also have to understand it’s hard to get insight into how those people might feel if you don’t know people in your own life who have gone through that. It’s bad. We acknowledge that it’s bad that it never crossed our minds, and it’s something we have to fix, as far as being active in our relationship with that side of it.

Because after all this went down, I knew that if we had better knowledge of sexual assault victims, and how they feel and how they experience things, I think we would have handled it so much better, and I think that’s something that, within our program — and athletics in general, and campus-wide — that’s something we have to address. We’ve reached out to groups.

Elmore says if the team had read the lengthy report about the alleged assault, the team likely still would have boycotted football activities to protest the way the suspensions and discipline were handled.

Elmore said he doesn’t think there’s a culture of disrespect for women on the team.

No, not at all. Coach (Jerry) Kill instilled it. He always told us, “Women are always right.” That’s something that we all believe. Coaches bring their wives, their kids, their daughters; we go to coaches’ houses. I don’t think as a father, a husband, you would bring your family into a rape culture. People can think whatever they think, but we don’t condone it, and if someone were open about that, in our program, they wouldn’t last very long.

Elmore also said the 10 players who were disciplined were part of the team meeting to discuss whether to protest. It’s not clear if anyone on the team asked them what happened in the off-campus apartment.

Shipley asked him if the team felt “betrayed” by the 10 players.

I don’t think so because we’ve listened to their side, and read the report, and also read the other investigations, and we see where there are discrepancies in the EOAA report. We don’t know what’s factual, but we know there are doubts, so we can’t take a stance on that report, in any case.

That’s why we’ve tried very hard not to say, “These guys are innocent, why is this happening?” I think that’s why we’ve been very deliberate in saying “due process” and things like that. And I think the phrase “due process” really lulled people to sleep, and the sexual assault side is louder.

The school’s athletic director wouldn’t answer questions about the investigation, Elmore said, and when the team was considering ending the boycott, university president Eric Kaler was “in charge.”

But before the boycott, coach Tracy Claeys told the team it could cost him his job, Elmore said.

Claeys was fired this week.

“We were 108 young adult, adolescent teen males trying to do this, and we had no leadership,” said Elmore, who said he’d take part in the boycott again although the team would “handle it differently.”

Related: National Champion Missy Erickson, an Alexandria, Minn., Native, Speaks Out About Her Sexual Abuse (Bicycling)