Four women allege sexual misconduct against former Michigan tight end Mustapha Muhammad

Saturday, September 5, 2020 - 12:22pm

The Daily uncovered several allegations ranging from sexual harassment to misconduct against former Michigan football player Mustapha Muhammad.

The Daily uncovered several allegations ranging from sexual harassment to misconduct against former Michigan football player Mustapha Muhammad. Buy this photo
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Content warning: This story contains descriptions of alleged sexual misconduct, and may be distressing for some readers.

In the summer of 2018, Addy Walker found herself alone with Mustapha Muhammad in his Alice Lloyd dorm room. At the time, Muhammad was an incoming freshman on the Michigan football team. He was also in Walker’s Comprehensive Studies Program.

A few hours earlier, Walker had confided in Muhammad that she was a survivor of sexual assault. She had shown him and a few other friends a tattoo on her left forearm inspired by one Lady Gaga got in solidarity with other sexual assault survivors. 

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Walker, now an LSA sophomore, said Muhammad began their encounter by kissing her with her consent. But she alleged that he soon began touching her without her consent.

“He got on top of me and got really aggressive,” Walker said. “ … And I said no many times. ‘No, no, no, stop. No, no.’ And he would not stop.”

Walker remembers Muhammad bringing up his status as a football player in response to her repeatedly saying “no.”

“Really, you don’t want to do it with a U of M football player?” she recalls him saying. 

Walker told her roommate about the incident soon after leaving Muhammad’s dorm room. They both decided Walker should not report the alleged sexual misconduct to the University — they feared Muhammad’s standing as an incoming football player would affect the school’s response.

In an interview with The Daily, Walker’s roommate recalled their conversation about potentially reporting the incident. Walker’s roommate requested anonymity, citing privacy concerns.

“Because he was a football player … she was scared what would happen if she had spoken about it, whether it be him hurting her … (or) any retaliation from the University,” Walker’s roommate said.

Walker is not alone. An investigation by The Daily uncovered four previously undisclosed allegations against Muhammad ranging from sexual harassment to misconduct, including stalking dorm residents and unwanted touching.

The Daily also found evidence the University was made aware of at least two of these alleged incidents in January 2019 in a report submitted to residence hall staff about accusations of sexual harassment. It is unclear if the University began an investigation into this report or if a finding was ever reached.

Muhammad did not reply to multiple texts and emails from The Daily requesting comment for this article.

Another female dorm resident alleged that she had a similar experience with Muhammad a few months after Walker. This former resident requested anonymity, citing privacy concerns. In this article, she will be referred to as Jane.

Jane first met Muhammad during the summer term. She lived near him in Alice Lloyd Residence Hall — her room was across the hall from Walker’s. 

One night in November 2018, Muhammad invited Jane to his dorm room in West Quad Residence Hall. His roommate was out for the weekend. They began watching a movie together.

“He was just, like, asking me questions, like if I had a boyfriend, was I interested in having a boyfriend,” Jane recalled. “And I just said I wasn’t really interested.”

About 20 minutes later, Jane alleged that Muhammad began touching her arms.

“He was … touching my arms and my stomach,” Jane said. “And then he, like, as time (progressed) … he kept moving to places I didn’t want to be touched.”

Jane remembered repeatedly motioning for Muhammad to stop touching her.

“Every time I would try to move his hands, he would move them back,” Jane said. “And then eventually it just got to the point where he actually, like, put my hands on his penis. And I was just like, I’m not — that’s not cool.”

Jane left Muhammad’s dorm room that night determined never to speak with him again. Though she continued to see him around campus and some of her friends continued to interact with him, she avoided speaking with him at all costs.

Jane remembers struggling to share her story with her friends. In the few instances that she did tell her story to someone else, they said they had heard similar rumors about Muhammad.

“I told a few friends, not in detail … maybe like three or four months later,” Jane said. “When I did tell them more of the details, they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, you have to watch out for him … he has the reputation for doing that.’”

Walker’s roommate confirmed the content of these rumors. She remembers hearing them while living near Muhammad during her freshman year.

“I’ve had quite a few people (come to me) about something he has done,” Walker’s roommate said. “And they always asked me to keep it confidential, which is why I never spoke up.”

Two others accused Muhammad of stalking them in their residence halls. A year after the alleged incident with Jane, Muhammad was living in West Quad in an all-male hall adjacent to a mixed-gender hall.

In January 2019, Muhammad allegedly harassed two female West Quad residents living near his room, according to a report filed with residential staff. Though the specifics of this alleged harassment remain unclear, it was characterized to the University as “stalking.”

One person with knowledge of this incident spoke to The Daily, corroborating the nature of the alleged harassment. The Daily was also able to verify the content of the report.

Muhammad continued to live near these residents for the remainder of the year. The Daily could not determine what steps, if any, the University took to investigate this complaint. 

In November 2019, Muhammad announced he was entering the transfer portal to leave the University ten months after the report was filed. Though he was reported to have transferred to the University of Houston, a spokesperson for Houston confirmed that he never enrolled there. 

Instead, he transferred to Kilgore Community College in Texas. It is unclear if his initial transfer, or his detachment from Houston, is related to this report.

Jimmy Rieves, the athletic director at Kilgore Community College, confirmed that Muhammad was enrolled at the school this past spring and summer.

“We didn’t have any knowledge of the allegations,” Rieves wrote in an email to The Daily. “He was referred to us by another 4 year school that had recruited him and they didn’t have enough scholarship money for him to attend their institution.”

However, Rieves noted Muhammad would no longer be enrolled as of this fall.

“He is not going to be enrolled here this Fall, not because of any disciplinary reasons,” Rieves wrote.

It is also unclear if Muhammad’s decision to transfer from the University was based on this report of alleged sexual harassment. 

In an email to The Daily, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald explained that the University is prohibited by both federal law and University policy from confirming or discussing allegations of sexual misconduct against students.

Fitzgerald said “all student matters are handled” in accordance with the University’s policy on student sexual and gender-based misconduct.

“Similarly, all allegations of sexual misconduct reported to Athletics, Housing or any individual or unit at the University with reporting obligations would be referred to the Office for Institutional Equity for review,” Fitzgerald added.

Football spokesperson David Ablauf and athletic department spokesperson Kurt Svoboda both forwarded The Daily’s questions to Fitzgerald.

“We can tell you that all student matters are handled in the same manner. There is no difference in the process for student athletes or any other subset of the student body,” Fitzgerald wrote. 

Fitzgerald stressed the importance of reporting allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct to the University.

“I also would emphasize how important it is that sexual misconduct be reported to the University and to OIE,” Fitzgerald said. “We want everyone to report any activity they believe may be a violation of our policies so those actions can be evaluated and addressed appropriately.”

The football program has worked to increase awareness of the systemic problem of sexual misconduct on college campuses and in college athletics, specifically.

Shortly after the alleged incident with Walker in summer 2018, Brenda Tracy, sexual assault survivor and activist, came to the University to speak to the football team. Photographs from that night show Muhammad was present for Tracy’s talk.

In 1998, two members of the Oregon State University football team raped Tracy. She now talks to athletic programs, fraternities and other organizations about ending the culture of sexual violence in collegiate and athletic settings.

At the time, her speech to the football team in September 2018 drew praise from football coach Jim Harbaugh.

“It was an amazing experience,” Harbaugh said on his Attack Each Day podcast. “She shared her story with our team and was very powerful. Her courage is at a level it’s hard to even imagine. A remarkable story which she’s been able to overcome. So many things came out of that meeting.”

In a recent interview with The Daily, Tracy explained that though she felt her conversations with the football players were productive, she was not surprised by the allegations against a former member of the team.

“It was a good visit,” Tracy said. “And you hope that these things don’t happen. But they do, unfortunately. And that’s probably one of the most frustrating things about the work I do … No matter how hard I work, someone is going to be hurt.”

Tracy ends every talk with a call to action, including asking her audience to sign her “Set the Expectation” pledge. For men’s teams, the pledge includes a commitment not to engage in “harmful behavior such as rape, sexual assault, physical violence, domestic/dating violence, stalking, bullying, hazing and taking or sharing photos and videos of a sexually explicit/violent nature,” with a penalty of dismissal from the team.

The Michigan football team did not sign Tracy’s pledge at the end of her visit. She explained that while she speaks at many football programs, few agree to sign.

“It’s interesting that some coaches sign and some coaches don’t have their players sign,” Tracy said. “And I think that different coaches are in different places of accountability, what they’re willing to do and not willing to do. And so I’m not making a formal statement about anybody, but there is a certain level of commitment that comes with making your players sign the pledge. Because once you’ve signed it, then we can expect accountability.”

The Michigan football team invited Tracy back to speak in 2019, but still has not signed her pledge.

“I hope that someday coach Harbaugh will have his players sign,” Tracy said. “That’s my hope. But I can’t make him do it. But hopefully, someday we get to that point where he’s ready to do that.”

Given Muhammad’s status as a football player, Tracy said she understood why two alleged survivors declined to report allegations of sexual misconduct to the University.

“This culture of survivors being afraid to come forward against football players is something we really have to work on,” Tracy said. “That doesn’t surprise me … that you had survivors who are afraid to come forward against really high profile athletes.”

Walker’s roommate expressed concern at what she described as Muhammad’s belief that being a football player entitled him to sex. 

“I remember her telling me that he had said to her that … he didn’t think that she could come into a football player’s room and not do something,” Walker’s roommate said. 

Jane recalled speaking with friends on other athletic teams about Muhammad. She was shocked at their knowledge of rumors about Muhammad’s alleged behavior.

“They said, ‘Oh, yes, he has a reputation,’” Jane remembered her friends saying. “All the girls in the athletic field try to avoid him.”

Walker said she wishes she had acted on her allegations sooner.

“Now that I know there’s been other girls, I really regret not coming forward when I should have,” Walker said. “I didn’t want to go through reporting and answering questions and doing all this and that. But now that it’s been a good amount of time ... and I’m hearing about these other girls that have been affected, I’m absolutely willing to come forward with them.”

Daniel Dash and Arthur Potter contributed reporting to this story.

Managing Sports Editor Ethan Sears and Daily Staff Reporter Sammy Sussman can be reached at searseth@michigandaily.com and sbsu@michigandaily.com.