An irritated fan punched Goldy Gopher in the face during a men’s gymnastics meet Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion.
During the meet, the University of Minnesota mascot sat behind Douglas Dokken, 60, and started “messing with him,” witness Barry Colthorpe said. Goldy tapped Dokken on the shoulder and ruffled his hair.
Colthorpe said Dokken was ignoring Goldy’s antics, but within a couple of minutes, he snapped, turned around and punched Goldy in the face.
Goldy froze, but within moments of the first punch, Dokken wailed another, forcing Goldy to leave the area.
“I think it was clearly amusing — it’s not something you see every day,” Colthrope, 27, said. “It was just two people fighting, but if one of them is dressed up as a 7-foot gopher, then it’s pretty amusing.”
Goldy immediately talked to his supervisor and the police officer who was already stationed at the event. He is not reported to have been hurt, but the mask was damaged.
Security personnel arrested Dokken as soon as the meet finished.
Dokken was issued a citation for disorderly conduct and a trespass warning banning him from the Sports Pavilion and Williams Arena for a year, University police Lt. Troy Buhta said.
“It was something I deeply regret,” Dokken said. “It was a moment of temporarily being upset, and I should have just walked out of there.”
Dokken said he was glad no one was hurt.
Buhta said during his 14 years in the department, he has never seen Goldy assaulted. He said Goldy gets jumped on by fans, but not out of malice.
Garry Bowman, program director for Intercollegiate Athletics, also said in the four years he’s worked at the University, he is not aware of anyone ever striking Goldy.
Ellen Sunshine, another witness, said Goldy grabbed her arm and tried to get her to poke Dokken as well.
“I know Goldy is all in fun, but he did kind of overstep a little bit,” Sunshine said. “The way that Goldy was in his face would make anyone uncomfortable.”
Sunshine also said she has seen Dokken at events before, calling him “a really big supporter of the gymnastics team.”
Both Colthorpe and Sunshine said the scuffle didn’t cause too much of a disturbance to the meet.
“It’s unfortunate because there were family and children probably present, so it was too bad it had to happen in a crowd like that,” Buhta said.