A group of former players for the University of Iowa football team have withdrawn a $20 million settlement and filed a lawsuit against the school, citing years of racial discrimination.
According to the Associated Press, Damario Solomon-Simmons, the attorney representing the 13 former students, withdrew the settlement after the university rejected their demands. The settlement called for the firings of head football coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, and athletic director Gary Barta, in addition to the $20 million for damages.
The university believes they’ve already taken steps to address the players’ concerns and create a more welcoming environment for Black players. The Associated Press also reported that student athletes recently kneeled for the anthem for the first time in the university’s history, and the football program has eased its restrictions on the kinds of hairstyles and clothing players can wear.
While these are nice steps, it doesn’t mitigate the years of discomfort and blatant racism that Black athletes experienced at the school. Over the summer, the school hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the university’s football program after multiple former students spoke about the treatment they faced at the school. The investigation ultimately found that the program “perpetuated racial and culture biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.”
Players allege that they weren’t allowed to wear certain clothing, have certain hairstyles, and were pushed to relinquish their culture in an effort to reflect the “Iowa Way,” a.k.a., whiteness.
The university fired former assistant coach Chris Doyle over the summer, due to multiple allegations that he had bullied students. Doyle was alleged to be one of the worst offenders when it came to making Black athletes feel uncomfortable. They paid him $1.1 million in a resignation agreement and Doyle has since denied the allegations.
So, the school is willing to pay the people who got them into this situation, but not willing to make things right with those who were affected. That’s totally not fucked up at all.
On Thursday, the university released a statement saying that the former athletes speaking out has “resulted in a strong commitment to improve,” adding that any athlete who left the school without a degree is eligible for financial assistance should they return.
“To that end, the University of Iowa continues to work hard to become a more inclusive campus for all students,” the university’s statement read. “We appreciate the athletes using their voices and we are on a positive path forward with our team.”
Solomon-Simmons told reporters that he also intended to file civil rights lawsuits in both federal and state agencies, saying that his clients were “denied the benefits of a quality education and opportunities to excel.’’