By MARGARET FEDERMAN SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Thousands of fans gathered at the University of Texas-San Antonio campus for the start of a three-day rally to defend players who were suspended following a domestic violence incident in April.
More than 2,500 people, mostly college students and students from other universities, turned out on Wednesday at the campus, a school of about 2.5 million people in the city of Austin.
The rally was a first for the university, which has had a tumultuous relationship with players.
It was held in the aftermath of a news conference by UTSA President Bill Powers, in which he apologized for the violence in which three women were beaten, punched and left unconscious.
“I know there is a lot of pain and sadness and anger,” Powers said.
“But I think this is an opportunity for all of us to come together and let the players know that our voices are heard.”
The world is watching and you’re part of the solution, not part of our problem.
“Powers also said UTSA would offer $25,000 to any student who would file a police report with a domestic abuse counselor, and $25 million to UTSA for a domestic-violence program.
Texas has more than 200,000 students and about 20,000 of them attend UTSA, which is in the Austin-Round Rock metro area.
A university spokesperson said the number of people in attendance was more than 1,000, with about 30,000 fans in attendance.
About 4,500 UTSA students, faculty and staff attended the rally, including many who are UTSA alumni.
Texas students hold signs as they attend a rally against the suspension of players for domestic violence at the Texas Tech University campus in Austin, Texas, May 4, 2019.
A UTSA student holds a sign as she attends a rally to express support for the football players suspension after a domestic incident at the university in Austin.
The university has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years for the high number of domestic-abuse allegations made against athletes.
UTSA had about 100 domestic-assault reports in 2016, and it has received more than 50 complaints in the past three years.
The University of North Texas, one of the schools most famous football teams, had 1,500 domestic- assault complaints in 2015.
The UTSA university is located in the northern part of Texas, and students and faculty from the school’s four-campus campus live in nearby cities.