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Eight former Black athletes demand $20 million in compensation from Iowa
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Eight former Black athletes demand $20 million in compensation from Iowa

Iowa Racial Bias

Iowa Football Head Coach Kirk Ferentz addresses the media during a press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, July 30, 2020 in Iowa City, Iowa. Ferentz discussed the Husch Blackwell review of the Iowa football program that investigated racial bias against Black players.

Claiming they were subjected to intentional race discrimination by the coaching staff and administrators during their time on the football team at Iowa, eight Black former Hawkeyes demanded personnel changes and $20 million in compensation from the university.

In a letter sent to University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld, director of athletics Gary Barta and coach Kirk Ferentz on Oct. 5, attorney Demario Solomon-Simmons sought on behalf of the student-athletes to “amicably resolve’’ the situation before filing suit and gave the university an Oct. 19 deadline to respond.

“Through the program’s pervasive harassment, bullying, policies causing disparate impact and race-based threats and retaliation, our clients were deprived of a meaningful opportunity to pursue a high-quality education while competing at the highest level of collegiate athletics,’’ the letter states.

The former players – Maurice Fleming, Andre Harris, Marcel Joly, Kevonte Martin-Manley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker, Reggie Spearman and Akrum Wadley – are seeking $10 million for their “loss of professional opportunities’’ and the “pain and suffering’’ they claim to have experienced during their time at Iowa as well as an additional $10 million to be put in a fund to compensate other athletes for the “discrimination and ongoing severe and pervasive acts that constitute intentional discrimination.’’

The group also demands the ouster of head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and Barta and seeks mandatory annual anti-racist training for all athletic department personnel, implementation of a senior Black male administrator position to support Black athletes and the establishment of a board of advisors to monitor the program.

It also seeks tuition waivers for any Black student-athletes who did not graduate during Kirk Ferentz’s 22-year tenure and payment of the athletes’ fees to attorneys.

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Carroll J. Reasoner, the University of Iowa vice president of legal affairs, sent a letter to Solomon-Simmons on Sunday, writing that the university would “respectfully decline your monetary and personnel demands.’’

The university’s response said Iowa had already implemented many of the demands of the group’s letter, including the hiring of former Hawkeye Broderick Binns as the athletic department’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, the formation of an advisory committee of former players and additional training.

Reasoner said the university welcomed “the opportunity to visit with your clients to determine their interest in participating in activities that assist in creating meaningful change.’’

Harreld echoed those sentiments in a statement, saying he appreciated that the former athletes shared insights on their experiences at Iowa.

“Many of their concerns have been reviewed and addressed,’’ Harreld said. “And to be clear, any student-athlete that has left the university and did not obtain their degree is welcome to return and we are here to support them.’’

Harreld indicated he was proud of strides Iowa has made since June, when dozens of former Hawkeyes raised questions on social media expressing concern over racial inequities within the program.

The Iowa program’s strength and conditioning coordinator and subject of many of the complaints, Chris Doyle, was removed from the program days after the initial complaints were registered and reached a separation agreement with the university on June 15.

Solomon-Simmons’ letter said that Kirk Ferentz and Brian Ferentz “have never had to answer for their extensive roles in creating, developing and taking part in the pervasive culture of discrimination that humiliated and beat down the numerous African-American athletes under their control.’’


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