Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Knott protesters march in tailgates

September 10, 2001

MSU’s gridiron matchup with Central Michigan was laced with controversy Saturday as about 100 people protested the university granting admittance and scholarships to Eric Knott and Damon Dowdell.

Knott, a freshman tight end, was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in June from charges extending from a 1999 incident involving a 13-year-old Detroit girl.

Dowdell, a redshirt freshman quarterback, was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct in the same incident. He later plead no contest to assault and battery.

Knott served 30 days in jail this summer and is on probation for one year. If he meets the terms of his probation, which includes community service, his charges will be lessened to aggravated assault.

MSU granted Knott a football scholarship in August, and Dowdell joined the team as a redshirt freshman last fall.

Protesters marched throughout campus Saturday with signs and flyers before the 1 p.m. kickoff. The group members- many dressed in black - began at the MSU Union and made appearances at many tailgating venues with signs, flyers and angry voices.

“People have been pretty positive about it,” interdisciplinary humanities junior Nicole Ramp said Saturday outside Spartan Stadium. “They are angry that this happened. They still support the school, but they don’t support the school’s decision. And a lot of people are really mad about it.”

Some protesters said the group got people’s attention.

“I think it was very effective,” interdisciplinary junior Maria Casinelli said. “A lot of people were educated. We reached out to the alumni. And a lot of people were with us although they were not protesting. One person gave up their ticket and joined us. Some other people walked away from the game.”

When boycotters reached the stadium, many said they were surprised to find out how little some alumni knew about the Knott case.

“The alumni are (upset),” Ramp said. “They are like, ‘I didn’t even know that this was going on.’ They’re angry that this is even happening and they didn’t even know about it.

“And it hasn’t been well publicized. I have to say The State News has been horrible about it ... it hasn’t had a lot of publicity up until now, so we’re glad people are finally learning about it.”

The boycott wasn’t a student-only function. Members of the MSU faculty, such as Assistant Professor of philosophy Fred Rauscher, took part in the rally.

“I’ve been involved in some activist activities before, but this one got me going,” Rauscher said. “I felt like this is an outrage, and there’s no reason for the football team to recruit (Knott), so I wanted to come out.

“MSU is a great place. I think this is just hurting the reputation of MSU.”

The protests may not end anytime soon. Plans have been made to continue the boycott at home football games and to get the message to the administration.

“We plan to be at board of trustees meetings and football games and protesting at the administration building until something is done about this,” Ramp said.

“We’d like to see some kind of rule or law that sex offenders can’t get scholarships just like drug offenders can’t.”


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