The attorneys representing eight former University of Iowa football players have announced they will be filing a lawsuit against the school, after demands for $20 million and the firing of head football coach Kirk Ferentz, assistant coach Brian Ferentz and athletics director Gary Barta were not met.
Tulsa, Okla., civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons and Des Moines attorneys Alfredo Parrish and Brandon Brown sent a letter Tuesday to state Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson and University of Iowa General Counsel Carroll Reasoner that stated they were withdrawing their original demands from Oct. 5 and will file a suit for unlawful race discrimination committed against the eight former players: Akrum Wadley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker, Marcel Joly, Maurice Fleming, Reggie Spearman, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Andre Harris.
“Please let this correspondence serve as a follow up to our October 5, 2020 demand letter, your October 18, 2020 response, and our subsequent settlement discussions,” the letter read. “Since our settlement efforts are stalled this letter serves as formal notice we are withdrawing our formal demand, including the $20,000,000.00 monetary portion, and moving forward with filing our lawsuit.”
The school conducted an independent internal investigation into the football program over the summer after many current and former players went public with accusations of bullying and racial bias. The investigation concluded that rules within the program perpetuated racial or culture bias, though changes were being made, such as a relaxation of dress codes within the football facility, allowing players to use social media during the season and the installation of former player Broderick Binns as Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the UI athletics program.
Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, the subject of many of the player complaints, received a settlement to leave the program in June. Other accusations were made against Brian Ferentz, who publicly apologized last month to anyone who had a “negative experience in our program, for any player that didn’t feel valued or respected on a human level.”
Current players have repeatedly said the culture of the program has improved. Players have been allowed to kneel for the national anthem the past two games at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa sent a response letter to Solomon-Simmons on Oct. 18, rejecting his demands to fire the Ferentzes and Barta, to provide $10 million to the eight former players for their mistreatment and an additional $10 million for a fund for other players discriminated against.
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“We sincerely hoped our demand would initiate productive settlement discussions and lead to effective changes in the program while compensating our clients for the harms the staff inflicted upon them. Clearly, now is not the time to do so,” Tuesday’s letter read. “Although we are withdrawing our offers, we are receptive to revisiting settlement discussions after filing our lawsuit and using the discovery process to depose coaches, players, recruits, and staff and review litigation related documents including the four personnel reports regarding current and former employees you have hidden from the public.”
Iowa’s independent investigation by the Husch Blackwell Law Firm of Kansas City, Mo., concluded with a 28-page report made public and four “personnel reports” of unnamed current/former athletics department employees that have been confidential.
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