In the nineteenth century, "yarn" was defined as "...a (long) story or tale: sometimes implying one of a marvellous or incredible kind; also, a mere tale." The phrase, "spinning a yarn" likely arose from "...the sailors' and deep sea fishers' practice of reminiscing and story-telling while they are sedentarily engaged. e.g. in yarn twisting." In the twenty-first century, the media does not often report on the "yarn" of deep sea fishermen, instead they report on the "yarn" of women reporting sexual assault.  

The latest "big news" involving sexual assault on a college campus hails from Minnesota. The Minnesota Golden Gophers' football team said on Thursday that they would boycott the Holiday Bowl over the suspension of 10 of their teammates who have been accused of sexual assault. The Golden Gophers have since ended their boycott, but not due to a newfound understanding of reporting sexual assault vs. spinning a yarn.

According to Golden Gophers coach, Tracy Claeys, "...the boycott was around the due process. Period. How it all happened, that operation". He went on to say, 

In the players’ mind, and I support the fact that there is a due process thing that needs to be addressed, and I think as the players’ release said, that president Kaler agreed to look at that.

I agree with Claeys that due process is important. Here is the process as the media has reported it:

- ESPN: A woman reported her sexual assault on September 2 to police. Her report was complicated. She said that her sexual contact with two football players "may have been consensual". However, her sexual contact with two other players was not consensual,  According to police records, a woman told officers she was drunk when she was sexually assaulted in a player's apartment by several men on Sept. 2, including some of the suspended players. She said her sexual contact with two men may have been consensual but that her sexual contact with two other players was not.  

- ESPN W.:  Luckily, while the victim's story was too "yarn-y" for prosecutors to bring to trial, The University of Minnesota, took her seriously and started its own Title IX investigation the same time as the police's investigation. 

- Washington Post and New York Post:  Following their investigation into the alleged sexual assault, The University of Minnesota found that the preponderance of the evidence called for the suspension of ten football players. This evidence included video footage, photos and "...the exchange of text messages between players, including one that stated the recruit and one of the players planned to 'double team the alleged victim." What is worse is that the university also found the students under investigation to be impeding their investigation.

After the suspension, the university president, Eric Kaler and the university athletic director, Mark Coyle, wrote a letter to student athletes writing that the suspension was handed down because, 

...certain behavior is simply unacceptable and antithetical to our institutional values.

Understandable, right?

- Star Tribune: Apparently not. On Thursday, December 15, Gophers players announced their boycott of all football related activities 

While teammates coming together in unity is heartwarming and reminds us to see the good in humanity, ESPN pointed out, 

...when it comes to sexual assault, the togetherness creates an us-against-them mentality that sends a clear message to those who might need to report a rape against a member of a team: We will fight back. With numbers.

The Gophers said that they decided to boycott due to their administration's decision to suspend players, saying that they did not get their questions answered about why the suspension was handed down and they did not understand why the university would find the need to punish students when "the law" did not (Law & Order SVU Hint: it comes down to a "preponderance of the evidence" rather than "beyond a reasonable doubt").  

- Twin Cities Pioneer Press: So, what now? Well, the boycott is over. The Minnesota Gophers will be playing - sans 10 players - in the Holiday Bowl. Perhaps the end of their suspension was due, in part to the support of coach Claeys, who tweeted, "Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their efforts to make a better world." 

Efforts to make a better world? Time to check back with the definition of "yarn" at the top. 

In the coming weeks, I am interested to see if Claeys will change his story or if he will continue with his supportive, "parent relationship" schtick. While I wait to see how this news story continues to evolve, I share the same question about coach Claeys as the Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Consensual or not, how does he feel about the image of 10 to 20 of his players lined up down the hallway to take their turn with a woman who claims to have been inebriated? What are his thoughts on the video that has emerged from the incident? What about the texts his players exchanged afterward in an effort to hush-up what happened?

Hopefully, Claeys will be able to unravel the yarn sometime soon.

Elise MatsonComment