Outside Pressure Mounted for Minnesota to Fire Claeys

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)


Activists got their wish, but many say the fight goes on.

Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys was fired Tuesday as pressure mounted outside university halls to oust him.

Activists calling for his termination expect to continue with their plans to rally Wednesday afternoon outside the university's Morrill Hall. The noon rally is titled "Stand With Survivors: Fire Claeys."

In a Facebook post, rally organizers said Claeys' termination is "a step forward in addressing rape culture but we have a long way to go. Come to the rally to stand with the University of Minnesota and their decision and to make it clear we will continue to fight the current climate surrounding sexual assault."

Earlier Tuesday, Global Rights for Women, based in Minneapolis, wrote a letter to U President Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle urging them to fire Claeys and supporting "a no-tolerance policy for sexual assault."

Minutes after he was fired, Helen Rubenstein, the group's program director, said, "We're happy the university ... is taking a public stand."

But she said the university can't stop with "just firing the coach."

"They have to continue to put measures in place to protect women," she said. "It will take a comprehensive effort."

Before Claeys was booted, an online petition garnered more than 3,400 digital signatures demanded Claeys be fired "for failure of leadership and lack of sound judgment." A separate petition to keep Claeys had garnered about 2,200 digital signatures.

At issue was Claeys' support of his players who staged a boycott after 10 of their teammates were suspended from the team in connection with an alleged sexual assault. Hennepin County has twice reviewed the case and declined to press charges, but a school investigation led to the suspensions.

Petition organizers focused on a tweet from Claeys and said the coach's message "fails to acknowledge the tragic, historic mistreatment of women, demonstrating that he is not an appropriate or effective leader for young people. ... We believe he put the welfare of his football program above the welfare of a female student."

On Dec. 15, as his players decided to boycott all team activities, Claeys tweeted: "Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!"

Pushing to oust Claeys, rally organizers posted on Facebook: "We need a football coach who represents the values of the University. Claeys' words and actions in the wake of his players' disgusting choices are reprehensible."

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January 4, 2017


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