Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Sexual assault protest Saturday targets two student-athletes

September 7, 2001

MSU freshman tight end Eric Knott and redshirted freshman quarterback Damon Dowdell will not be welcomed by all to Spartan Stadium on Saturday.

A group of MSU activists are organizing a protest against the two athletes. Knott pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and served 30 days in jail for the alleged rape of a 13-year-old Detroit girl in 1999. Dowdell was also charged in the case. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery charges last August. Dowdell joined the MSU football team in September, but he was redshirted because of the team’s depth at quarterback.

Supporters of the protest will meet at 10:45 a.m. on the second floor of the Union to march to the stadium for the 11:30 a.m. protest.

“We want to send the message to the university that winning is not as important as women’s rights,” said event organizer Cynthia Drake, an MSU alumna.

As a student at MSU, Drake coordinated different protests and was involved in activities such as Take Back the Night, an anti-rape event organized by MSU Safe Place, and The Listening Ear.

But she hadn’t planned on continuing her activism after graduation, until MSU accepted both Knott and Dowdell.

“I thought I was over the protest thing,” Drake said. “But when I heard (that MSU accepted Knott) over the summer it made me angry.

“It seemed like all the work had been ignored. My university was letting me down after all the work we had done.”

Organizations including MSU Safe Place, The Listening Ear and Planned Parenthood’s MSU VOX chapter will be outside the stadium Saturday to support the cause.

But Drake and the protest groups don’t seem to be alone. Many MSU students said they are not pleased with the university’s decision.

“I don’t think (Knott and Dowdell) should be allowed to play on the team, no matter how good they are,” English sophomore Ashley Nebe said. “Michigan State is really well-known for sports, but it’s pretty easy to find a football player, they’re all over the place. To know that they did this and they brought them back on the team, I think that is kind of a black mark on Michigan State.”

Some students weren’t concerned with the football team’s record, but with their safety at MSU. Pre-law freshman Aja Wincher said it’s not a good feeling knowing that men accused of crimes the same rights as her on campus.

“That’s really messed up how they are just free and clear and everything,” Wincher said. “They should have been denied (admission).”

The protests won’t be held before every MSU game, but there’s a possibility that groups could continue to protest until the Penn State game on Nov. 24, Drake said.

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