The University of Iowa said it would not pay a claim by eight black former football players for $ 20 million in compensation for alleged racial discrimination they faced playing for the Hawkeyes.
The university attorney’s office on Sunday released its response to a 21-page certified letter dated Oct. 5 from civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons of Tulsa, Oklahoma, representing the players.
The players also called for layoffs from head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive line coach Brian Ferentz and athletic director Gary Barta.
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Solomon-Simmons’ letter said that if the demands are not met on Monday, the former players are ready to file a lawsuit for compensation for the illegal abuse they said they had endured. Solomon-Simmons did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
The Des Moines (Iowa) Registry first reported the requirements and the university̵
The former players are Akrum Wadley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker, Marcel Joly, Maurice Fleming, Reggie Spearman, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Andre Harris.
University President Bruce Harreld said in a statement that the school valued the former players who shared insights into their experiences and that many of their concerns have been reviewed and addressed.
“There are several requirements described in the letter, and we are proud of the efforts made so far,” Harreld said. “We have a way forward that includes ideas and recommendations from many current and former students that aim to make the University of Iowa a more inclusive and better place to learn, grow and compete as an athlete. However, the university rejects the demands for money and staff changes. ”
The university in June hired law firm Husch Blackwell to review the football program after dozens of former players, most of them Black, spoke on social media to claim racial differences and ill-treatment. Their activism came as protests against racial injustice swept the nation after George Floyd’s death, and after attempts to raise concerns within the program, it resulted in only minor changes.
The athletic department created ties to longtime strength and fitness coach Chris Doyle, who received $ 1.1 million in a retirement deal. Several players had accused Doyle of using racial nonsense when addressing them, a claim he rejected. Brian Ferentz, son of Kirk Ferentz, was also alleged to have been violent towards players.
The review, which included interviews with 111 current and former players and staff, found that the cultural issues were systemic.
The report said many black players did not feel welcome or supported in the program. Players reported that for a long time they were not allowed to wear “do-cloths”, tank tops, earrings or other jewelry in the football building and were discouraged from getting tattoos or having certain hairstyles. Black players said they felt designated, isolated and forced to suppress their personalities.
Ferentz removed the rules for jewelry and hats and instructed his staff not to criticize hairstyles or tattoos last year after a review by the athletic department raised concerns about racial bias.
Solomon-Simmons’ letter asked the university to pay a payment of $ 10 million “for loss of earning capacity, loss of professional opportunities, defamation, pain and suffering, mental conditions, mental anguish, PTSD, humiliation and general emotional distress that our clients is incurred. ”
In addition, the letter asked for $ 10 million to set up a fund set up for athletes that does not include the eight former football payers, to compensate them for discrimination and ongoing serious and pervasive acts that constitute intentional discrimination where the defendants intended to treat American different. ”
Also requested, among other things: attorney’s fees, mandatory annual anti-racist training for all athletes in the athletics department, creation of a permanent Senior Black Male Administrator position, and tuition exemption for black athletes who attended Iowa in Ferentz ’22 and did not graduate.
Carroll Reasoner, UI’s Vice President of Legal Affairs and Advocate General, wrote in his response to Solomon-Simmons that steps have been taken to create a better environment for black athletes.
Reasons pointed out that Broderick Binns, a black former Iowa football player, was recently named director of diversity, equity and inclusion in athletics. Reasons also said that former player David Porter, who is black, heads an advisory committee “to improve the football climate” and that coaches and staff receive training on diversity issues.