By AARON BEARD, AP Sports WriterWed Mar 29, 10:32 AM ET
Duke University's president has suspended the school's highly ranked lacrosse team from play until school administrators learn more about allegations that several team members raped an exotic dancer at an off-campus party.
"In this painful period of uncertainty, it is clear to me, as it was to the players, that it would be inappropriate to resume the normal schedule of play," President Richard Brodhead said Tuesday.
Brodhead met with students Wednesday morning to discuss the incident in a forum closed to reporters, Duke spokesman Geoffrey Mock said.
"It was a meeting at which the students could share their thoughts about the topic," Mock said. He did not know how many attended but said the meeting was open to all students.
A woman told police she and another dancer were hired to perform March 13 at a private party in an off-campus home. The dancer, a student at North Carolina Central University, told police she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and raped by three men.
No one has been charged, but police took DNA samples with a cheek swab from 46 of the lacrosse team's 47 players last week. The 47th player, the only black member of the team, did not have to provide DNA because the dancer said her attackers were white. The dancer is black.
Brodhead said team captains notified Athletic Director Joe Alleva on Tuesday that players wanted to stay off the field until the DNA results came back from a crime lab. In a statement, the captains predicted the DNA testing would clear the players of wrongdoing.
The case has roiled the campus and raised racial tensions. It also has heightened antagonism between the affluent students at Duke, which costs about $43,000 a year, and the city of Durham, which has a large population of poor people and is about evenly divided between white and black.
"The circumstances of the rape indicated a deep racial motivation for some of the things that were done," District Attorney Mike Nifong said. "It makes a crime that is by its nature one of the most offensive and invasive even more so."
Nifong said the team members are standing together and refusing to talk with investigators, and he warned he may bring aiding-and-abetting charges against some of the players.
A lawyer representing several lacrosse team members did not immediately return calls Tuesday.
Angry over the team members' silence and the university's handling of the case, Durham residents have demonstrated on and off campus in the past few days. They rallied outside the house where the alleged attack occurred, and gathered outside of Duke Provost Peter Lange's home, where they banged on pots and pans until he emerged to answer questions.
Lange said Monday that he believes "the students would be well-advised to come forward. They have chosen not to."
The university's athletic director had already forced the team to miss two games because of underage drinking and the hiring of dancers at the party. Duke, considered a national title contender before the season began, has a 6-2 record with five regular-season games to go.
Associated Press Writer Emery P. Dalesio contributed to this report.
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