Minnesota's A.J. Barker (82) runs down field with UNLV's Kenneth Penny (17) in pursuit during their NCAA college football game at Sam Boyd Stadium, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 in Las Vegas. Credit: AP
Quitting a football team via social media is certainly one of the most public ways one can exit from college sports. In a long-winded (and we mean long-winded) letter posted on Tumblr, University of Minnesota wide receiver A.J. Barker described, in detail, his reasons for quitting the Golden Gophers. Among them, alleged "abuse" over his atheistic views.
The post, "My Letter to Jerry Kill, why I quit," details Barker's contention that he was both abused and intimidated. After announcing his plans to leave the team on Twitter last night, the college junior encouraged readers to go to his Tumblr page for additional details.
"Well, its official. I am done playing football for the University of Minnesota and I will be looking to transfer next season for my final yr," the player wrote.
The leading Golden Gophers receiver laid out his grievances point-by-point in the massive 4,000+ word post; Barker expressed regret about leaving mid-season, but made it clear that he feels he has no other choice. Continuing on the team, he wrote, would mean contending with further "manipulation and abuse."
He used the post to share some of the sentiments that he purportedly heard from coach Jerry Kill (whom the letter was addressed to; caution: language):
There's nothing special about me?
I'm a dime a dozen?
You don't know what "fucked up things happened to me to screw me up so much as a person"?
My stock fell as a person since I got injured?
You had 5 of me at Northern Illinois?
You say I'll never earn a scholarship under you? That I don't deserve one?
In responding to these alleged insults, Barker had harsh words for the coach. Aside from defending his parents, whom he said provided him with a wonderful upbringing, he wrote to Kill directly, saying that he will "not accept [his] ruthless attempt to degrade and belittle" him.
Minnesota wide receiver A.J. Barker heads to the end zone on a 53-yard touchdown catch during an NCAA college football game in Minneapolis. Barker quit the team Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in a blistering email to coach Jerry Kill that he subsequently made public through his personal blog, the messy fallout triggered by their conflict about the treatment of the junior's sprained right ankle. Credit: AP
"My parents and friends are extremely proud of me. They don’t view me as screwed up," he wrote. "I am an upstanding member of society and a paying/honest student at the University of Minnesota. I haven’t got in trouble with the law. I don’t have any demons in my closet. I don’t mistreat or hurt the people around me. I carry myself with dignity and respect."
This, of course, is only a minuscule snapshot of the letter. The former player went on to detail other alleged instances of verbal abuse. While speaking with a trainer about an injury he sustained last month, Barker claims he was talked down to and that Kill called his character into question.
Additionally, in a separate occurrence, his faith (or lack thereof -- according to a Twitter message in October, Barker is an atheist) purportedly came under attack by tight ends coach Rob Reeves (caution: language):
It was during this discussion that you came over and exploded on me in front of the entire team in our indoor facility. "YOU DON'T FUCKING GET TO TELL THE TRAINER WHAT YOU DO!" followed by a 20 minute tyraid where you attacked everything about me, from an athlete to my character as a person. I took every word of it replying faithfully "Yes sir. Yes sir. No, sorry sir" and watched as you demeaned me to a point of no return. You took the one thing you had a say in (my football playing career and my future) and you held it against me in an attempt to break me, going as far as to tell me I'll never get a scholarship or see the field again. [...]
But don't be confused by this explanation into thinking this is a quick/irrational decision based solely around Thursday's event. Last spring before the spring game I was called a faggot for my spiritual views by Coach Reeves where other players on the team heard him say it. Coach Poore put me down the week before the UNLV, calling my play pathetic and claiming I couldn't handle the bright lights.
You can read the entire letter here. The university's athletic director, Norwood Teague, issued a statement regarding the situation on Sunday evening. While brief, it addresses the controversy head on.
Minnesota wide receiver A.J. Barker, center, can't make the catch as Grayson Levine, left, and Steven Montgomery, right, defend during a spring NCAA college football game at TCF Bank Stadium, Saturday, April 21, 2012, in Minneapolis. Credit: AP
"Coach Kill received an email from A.J. Barker today notifying the Coach that he has quit the team," Teague writes. "Coach Kill tried reaching out to A.J. after receiving the email, but was unable to connect with him."
The athletic director goes on to say that the school understands Barker's frustration over his injury. The note concludes by regretting that the player is leaving "on these terms" and wishes the former student well.