Adam Rittenberg, ESPN, December 27, 2016
More than 400 “concerned citizens” have signed a petition calling for the University of Minnesota to fire football coach Tracy Claeys for his response to a recent player boycott.
Released Monday, the MoveOn.com petition centers on the Dec. 15 tweet that Claeys posted hours after the team announced its boycott, which came in response to the university suspending 10 players for involvement in an alleged sexual assault involving a female student. Minnesota players began the boycott because they believed that teammates had been denied due process from the university’s Title IX office, especially five players who were never investigated by Minneapolis police or Hennepin County prosecutors.
Claeys tweeted: “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!”
The petition notes that Claeys’ tweet “failed to mention or acknowledge the importance of respecting women. Further, it did not condemn violence, sexual assault or disrespect of women. We feel this is not at all acceptable.”
Organizers have sent the petition to university president Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle. They also plan to send it to the university’s board of trustees. Minnesota players ended their boycott Dec. 17, and Claeys will coach them Tuesday against Washington State in the National Funding Holiday Bowl.
Claeys said after the boycott ended that he wished he had chosen his words more carefully in the tweet but that he needed to support “their actions to try to improve the due process” for the suspended players. He also told WCCO radio that he planned to donate $50,000 to help support victims of sexual assault.
Claeys, who became Minnesota’s head coach last fall after Jerry Kill’s health issues forced him to retire, is signed through January 2019. He earned $1.4 million this year and is set to earn $1.5 million in 2017. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported in November that the school is exploring a contract extension for Claeys.
[Editor’s note: To learn more about the situation behind this news story, see AmRen’s recent commentary: Football Player’s Making a Better World]