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Behind KSTP's decision to publish the EOAA report on U of M football players

KSTP-TV
Wikimedia Commons/Mulad
KSTP-TV

It is entirely understandable if, indeed, the reason the University of Minnesota football team backed off its short-lived boycott of the Holiday Bowl was because they, like us, read the details of “the incident” involving (an as yet undetermined) number of their teammates in the EOAA (Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action) report leaked to KSTP-TV.

If something like that doesn’t change your thinking about camaraderie and solidarity, nothing will.

The 80-page report is full of much-too-vivid details about a couple hours of the skeeziest activity this side of an internet porn video (which it sort of was, no matter whose version of the story is being told), and is not the sort of thing you want to be making a righteous public stand over. Especially since it feels like a story with legs.

As Minnesota Daily Editor Dylan Scott says, “This looks like one of those stories that is going to go on for another couple months, at least.” And with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman now revisiting “the incident,” as most of the press so chastely referred to it in its first moments, it is very hard to see it fading from attention any time soon. (If the suspended players’ attorney follows through with his threat to sue the young woman involved, he’ll be guaranteeing years of notoriety for the case — far beyond what the suspended players have already been through.)

The legal essentials of whom to believe — the woman, the players or the eyes of whoever sees the videos in question — will be hashed out elsewhere. Our purpose here is to look at questions around the leaking of the EOAA report.

Anne Wittenborg, news director for KSTP-TV, says only that the report was leaked to one of her reporters last Thursday. She won’t say which reporter, but the natural assumption is that ex-Strib investigative reporter Paul McEnroe, now at KSTP, was involved in some way.

“We had a meeting with our investigative team Friday morning,” Wittenborg says. “We had to authenticate it, obviously. We also met with our legal team and our general manager. And after some discussion the decision was made to go with it, to put it up on our website.”

She added that putting documentation up on the site is a fairly standard procedure.

Offsetting standard concerns about violating the privacy or rights of everyone involved — since Hennepin County had declined to charge any of the players — was the fact that the EOAA report painted a picture starkly at odds with what little the public knew at that moment, and that the public had an appetite for a lot more clarity than what had been offered until then.

“The crux of what made us make the decision [to post the report] was that the U had named the players,” said Wittenborg. “By that time, there were so many people involved. Players and parents, the administration at the U. And we had someone say that the athletic director [Mark Coyle] hadn’t yet read the [EOAA] report. I can’t confirm that, and the U isn’t saying. But everyone, including our legal team, found the report to be pretty disgusting and eye-opening. It was just so different than what the police had laid out.”

As of noon Monday, Wittenborg says the report had had 375,000 pageviews, a testament to how much more the public wanted to know about the story. Also, Wittenborg says there has been negligible community blowback on the station for putting it up.

Three things worth noting:

  • The, shall we say, delicacy of the first reporting on the story — legalistic descriptions of “the incident” that left much to the reader/viewer’s imagination — has much to do with the lack of detail in the police report. But it has something to do with the customary, civilizing distance the press puts between graphic, telling details and the mind of its audience. TV stations and newspapers are not in either the porn or pulp crime business, no matter what the cranks like to say.

That said, for all the reasons Wittenborg explains — i.e. intense interest in a story related to a public institution, coupled with dramatically divergent descriptions of what went on from two separate authorities — the decision to wade into graphic description was warranted.

  • Second, given that U of M sports are not exactly under-covered in these towns, it is striking that the leak only went to KSTP. That is not to suggest anything nefarious, only to make the comment that someone there is uniquely well-sourced. Given the intensity of interest, no one else in the Twin Cities press corps had anyone close to the EOAA report who’d do them a favor?

  • Third, with apologies to the beat reporters pounding out copy in the first couple of days, the murkiness of the story badly needed what it got from columnists like the Strib’s Patrick Reusse and Jim Souhan. Neither had the sleazy details the EOAA would bring, but both know enough of the school’s politics that they gave their readers a wider, deeper context to understand what was (still) happening. That’s what columnists are there for.

For what it's worth, Reusse took flak from MPR’s Bob Collins and others for suggesting that millennials aren’t as shocked by what occurred as boomers like him. But Reusse raises a provocative question related to a lot of other things younger generations have been exposed to virtually their entire lives. Reading the details, you do begin to wonder how much both genders have become acculturated to what their elders regard as appalling skeeziness? (The famous “Cool Girl” riff in Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” keeps running through my head as I try to make sense of this mess.)

For his part, Dylan Scott and his team at The Daily decided against putting the EOAA report up on their site on the grounds that it could contribute to further victimization of the woman involved and because, well, it was already up on KSTP’s site.

“We considered redacting parts of it,” he says (though the names and several other identifying details already were). “We agreed that the public has a right to know what’s in there. But for our purposes, it was enough that [the report] was already out there.”

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Comments (13)

For those of us who have read

For those of us who have read through the careful 80-page investigative report by the University's student affairs office, now up on-line, a couple of things not in the other news sources became clear:

The Minneapolis Police Department seemed to have dismissed this young woman's complaint a priori, and MPD was not helpful to the U's investigation--they refused to forward requested data on the police investigation, for example. Our police really come off badly, especially because their negative part in this was reduced to a stark, brief footnote in the report.

Several of the football players present at the gang rape admitted that they knew the woman was unwilling, and resisted as she could. (The MPD had decided she had "consented" to being penetrated sexually by as many as 20 men that night.)

Many dozens of perpetrators and witnesses, plus the victim, were interviewed at length, and attempts were made to retrieve all relevant materials: the videos these men took of the multiple assaults and how they communicated via cell phones with the whole freshman team about it. Painstaking analysis was done on how versions of events corroborated or contradicted other versions, and the investigators then looked at the preponderance of evidence (the standard the U has to hold to). They also determined who was lying, and in what ways, and what attempts the men made to cover their tracks..

The big difference between how the Minneapolis police dealt with this awful multiple rape and how the University of Minnesota's EOAA staff dealt with it is: the University's EOAA staff listened to the victim. Then they listened to the men involved, and witnesses who could back up facts.

The players involved were treated fairly. But they were held to internal University written and published standards of student behavior, and failed to meet them. Point by point, man by man, those failures are listed. It's all very ugly.

What's terrifying is the male attitude toward all women that is shown here. Rape culture, at its rawest.

Read the report.

Agreed

Some are treating the lack of charges as an exoneration, but it looks to me like the police didn't take the investigation seriously. I understand that it's very difficult to make rape charges stick, but even if you take the undisputed facts - the players' own statements - I think there is a case. I just don't buy that she consented to sex with 5 to 10 men.

These guys aren't going to sue anyone. They may not even go through with the hearings, given they may open themselves to criminal prosecution. If I was their lawyer, I would tell them to say nothing else, quietly leave town, and be grateful they aren't going to prison.

A disturbing mischaracterization

It's always troubling when those with an agenda choose to misrepresent facts to support their beliefs.

Nothing in the police report suggests these players knew the woman was unwilling. In fact, the complete opposite is true. The police were faced with a victim who couldn't deny that the first incident wasn't consensual, and that even her friends were aware of the possibility she'd engage in consensual sex with these players. As to the rest of the night, the alcohol she consumed either left her hazy as to what occurred or left her confused about it. And nothing in the videos contradicted that information. Despite all that, someone decides to write a defamatory statement that "the MPD decided she consented to all this sex". MInnPost should require her to identify that statement in any report.

The FACTS are that the evidence was inconclusive and contradictory. The criminal statutes are far more demanding than a "code of conduct" and the burden of proof is far greater. What happened to this woman from a moral and cultural standpoint is disgusting. But for a writer to hang some of the labels she did on the MPD is shameful and embarrassing.

I read the University's

I read the University's report until I couldn't go any farther. I don't understand how anyone who has read that report can defend the players or Minneapolis Police, even indirectly.

Well, here's how

It's called looking at the evidence (or lack thereof) without a preconceived agenda.

Or I could look at this issue like a lot of others here:

1. The investigative and decision-making bodies here are almost entirely female.
2. Although I cannot be sure, it appears the majority are not black.

Therefore, it must be obvious to everyone that this decision was, to reference another inquiry, a "high tech lynching" made by racists and misandrists. Is that fair? Of course not. But it's based on indisputable facts, ignores certain others and makes a political point. So, on second thought, I guess my conclusion is just as valid as any of the others expressed here.

Thank you

Thanks for this comment. It really does add context to the story.

Back when I was a young

Back when I was a young reporter, we got to cover one of the more famous gang rapes of the day,. Big Dan's in New Bedford, Mass.

Six men raped a woman in a tavern, while patrons looked on and applauded.

The people in the bar were in their 20s and 30s mostly.

That was 1983.

Baby Boomers, mostly.

You know how THEY are, eh, millennials?

Nope

The idea that you could make a determination from very brief and selective video clips of a longer period regarding the victim's state of mind is laughable. Does the MPD expect her to fight off a group of football players? She said she was scared for her safety.

The idea that giving consent and/or expecting to have consent with one player means that she consented to having sex with 5 to 10 men is similarly absurd.

If you want to split hairs about someone attributing something to the police report that wasn't there, have at it. The police report was an amateur-ish piece of junk - the University's report (not the concussions, but the investigation) shows what actual policing should look like.

It's the conduct of the MPD that is shameful and embarrassing.

Nope

The idea that you could make a determination from very brief and selective video clips of a longer period regarding the victim's state of mind is laughable. Does the MPD expect her to fight off a group of football players? She said she was scared for her safety.

The idea that giving consent and/or expecting to have consent with one player means that she consented to having sex with 5 to 10 men is similarly absurd.

If you want to split hairs about someone attributing something to the police report that wasn't there, have at it. The police report was an amateur-ish piece of junk - the University's report (not the concussions, but the investigation) shows what actual policing should look like.

It's the conduct of the MPD that is shameful and embarrassing.

EOAA Report

I read the entire report. Aside from the details, a few things struck me as remarkable. First, the quality of the report was top-notch. It revealed a careful and thorough investigation, and similarly well-supported analysis. I have professional experience doing investigations, and the staff responsible for this investigation seemed to leave no stone unturned.

The second thing that struck me as remarkable is that (I believe), much of the EOAA office exists, and specifically this investigation was triggered, because the U receives federal funding. I wonder if as thorough of an investigation would of been undertaken by the U if it wasn't compelled to do so by federal regulators.

Finally, MPD really gave us reason to believe that they are an incompetent group of people run within and by an old boys' network. ( I bet Bob Kroll totally supports the players.) I recognize the "beyond a reasonable" doubt standard is very different that that of the U's code of conduct, but the cops are not the county prosecutors. Their job is not to determine "beyond a reasonable doubt" threshold, their job is to gather evidence in an effort to protect the public. Their report does not indicate they did that.

Dismayed

As much as media coverage of this story piqued my curiosity about this report (which I have now read), I am dismayed that it came to light. Ten people have been effectively convicted in the court of popular opinion without due process. And one person has been forced into a much brighter spotlight that she did not seek or want. The traumas of this incident have been multiplied and amplified. These are unacceptable outcomes which directly resulted from the leak of this document.

I have no comment on the guilt or innocence of any of these people, and neither should anyone who has simply read a single, redacted report. That is not how justice works in our country -- or at least it is not how justice SHOULD work. "Innocent until proven guilty" is not some archaic and bothersome ideal. It is the bedrock on which we build the guarantee of fairness and thoroughness and care.

IF there is a silver lining to the release of this report, and that's a big IF, it might be that the players who were not directly involved in the incident, those whose boycott forced the case further into the public spotlight, learned a painful, embarrassing, but incredibly important lesson about the dangers of drawing premature conclusions. Their actions, regardless of intent, made things worse for everyone.

IF there is a silver lining to the release of this report, it may be that law enforcement will reopen an investigation which may have been closed too hastily, and that a discussion may be had about how and why such decisions are made (for which there may, in fact, be good reasons).

IF there is a silver lining to the release of this report, it may be that an institution which is a pillar of our community will engage in some much-needed self-examination in order to actively disperse the unacceptable culture in which such an incident might take place.

But even if these things happen, they will have come at a dreadful cost.

The only reason the

The only reason the Minneapolis Police Department could have for not recommending criminal prosecution for the ten men who gang-raped the University student is that, to the cops, it looked like she "consented" to the multiple-agent sexual assaults she complained of: she wasn't totally unconscious, she seemed to consent to sex with the first guy, and she let herself be vulnerable by having drunk some alcohol. It's incredible that the police think that ANY woman "consents" to "training" (being the sexual object for a sequence of men who come at her like car after car in a train--surprising what you learn from players' own descriptions of acts they committed).

That presumption of "consent" is police bias. By contrast, the University report, which is brilliantly careful and detailed and questions everything that anyone said or submitted as evidence, including careful questioning of the victim's descriptions, is not biased. No one who has read the whole thing can honestly call it biased. These are professional experts in questions of bias against minorities of various sorts and against women of all races and ethnicities.

Are you really saying that experts in investigating sexual assaults and harassment cannot be women? The review was not conducted by a jury, but by trained student services personnel, specialists in digging into this kind of ugly mess, and reporting it to the victim and the many accused men, as well as to the U's officialdom.

A lot of men are really upset that these football players were punished at all. In fact, the only thing several of the rapists asked the woman they had abused, after the fact, was whether she was going to tell anyone what happened. They tried to get her to swear that she wouldn't tell. Why were they so worried? Read the report, and you'll see that THE PLAYERS KNEW and admitted that what they did was heinous, and unwelcome by the victim.

There's no double jeopardy, either. The University of Minnesota suspended a bunch of football players after a meticulous report convinced U officials that the men had failed to meet published University standards of conduct. It is a privilege, not a right, to attend the University of Minnesota, and the institution doesn't really want people who can't behave decently. The U can expel or suspend those who fail in their conduct, whether academic or by raping someone.

The U didn't file criminal charges, and won't. That's for police and county attorney to do.

There are men out there who would like this revealing EEOAA report to be suppressed, for what it reveals about rape culture at the U. Sorry.

Acculturation of younger people?

Brian Lambert writes: "Reading the details, you do begin to wonder how much both genders have become acculturated to what their elders regard as appalling skeeziness?" But there is evidence of the opposite at the U of M. It was the younger folks -- the students -- who insisted on an "affirmative consent" policy, while the older generations' representatives -- the U's administration and the Board of Regents -- wanted to hold off on that. This Reusse/Lambert generalization about generational differences may exist only in their own minds.