A federal lawsuit against the University of Tennessee alleges that the school created a student culture that enabled sexual assaults by student-athletes, leading to the assault of at least six women, according to Anita Wadhwani and Nate Rau of The Tennessean.
Five Tennessee athletes were named in the suit, including one current member and three former members of the Volunteers football team. The former football players named are A.J. Johnson, Michael Williams and Riyahd Jones, along with former basketball player Yemi Makanjuola. The current player on the football team in the suit is listed as “John Doe.”
The lawsuit claims that the university “enabled an environment of bad behavior and used a disciplinary system that favored the players,” citing more than a dozen incidents, including ones that hadn’t been previously reported. Among the incidents are allegations of underage drinking, sexual harassment, assault, armed robbery and sexual assaults, including incidents that went beyond the six women filing suit.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs name Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart and football coach Butch Jones among those who were “personally aware” of previous sexual assaults and rapes committed by football players, but protected the interest of the football team rather than the victims of the crimes.
In a statement, the university’s legal counsel, Bill Ramsey, said the school “has devoted significant time and energy” to educate and raise awareness about sexual assault:
“In the situations identified in the lawsuit filed today; the University acted lawfully and in good faith, and we expect a court to agree,.” Ramsey said in a statement, via The Tennessean.
Riyahd Jones was named in a police report for an alleged rape, but was not arrested when the woman decided against going after charges , and the investigation was closed without charges. He left the Tennessee football team in January 2015 and transferred to Georgia Southern after graduating.
Williams was indefinitely suspended and athletic department spokesman Jason Yellin later said eventually dismissed from the program had “moved on”, and Johnson played his senior season for the team in 2014, before both he and Williams were charged with aggravated rape.