Iowa Football

Lawsuit officially filed on behalf of 13 former Iowa football players

Iowa wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley grabs a 25-yard touchdown pass against Pittsburgh at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa Ci
Iowa wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley grabs a 25-yard touchdown pass against Pittsburgh at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (The Gazette)

A civil lawsuit was filed Thursday against the University of Iowa on behalf of 13 former Hawkeyes football players who are alleging racial disparities and mistreatment of them and others while members of the program.

The lawsuit was filed by Tulsa, Okla., civil rights attorney Demario Solomon-Simmons. Defendants in the suit are Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, head football coach Kirk Ferentz, assistant football coach Brian Ferentz, interim strength and conditioning coach Raimond Braithwaite and former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

The 13 plaintiffs are Akrum Wadley, Reggie Spearman, Kevonte Martin-Manley, Aaron Mends, Marcel Joly, Maurice Fleming, Jonathan Parker, Brandon Simon, Terrence Harris, Andre Harris, Javon Foy, Darian Cooper and LaRon Taylor.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of Solomon-Simmons and Des Moines attorneys Alfred Parrish and Brandon Brown issuing a letter Tuesday to the university and the state’s Solicitor General, announcing they were withdrawing a formal demand of $20 million in damages and the firings of Barta and the Ferentzes for their treatment of Black players.

That demand came in a letter to the university Oct. 5, with the university sending a return letter saying the school would not meet those demands.

In a statement sent to media outlets Thursday, Solomon-Simmons said civil rights complaints would be filed with the United States Department of Education, the Department of Justice and Iowa’s Civil Rights Commission.

The statement brings forth these allegations:

• Due to the serious and pervasive discriminatory treatment and harassment, Plaintiffs were denied the benefits of a quality education and opportunities to excel while at the University of Iowa.

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• Defendants constantly berated Plaintiffs with racial slurs like “dumbass black player,” forced Plaintiffs to abandon natural and common African-American hairstyles, dress, and culture to fit the “Iowa Way,” and inflicted unfair and retaliatory punishment on Plaintiffs for speaking out against the discrimination they experienced and witnessed.

• Iowa sanctioned and paid for an investigation conducted by the law firm Husch Blackwell, LLP which found “in sum, [the Iowa football program’s] rules perpetuated racial and culture biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity ... the program ... maintained a culture that allows coaches to demean players.”

• Barta never corrected the behavior of his coaches, rather he enabled this culture of racial discrimination to persist.

• Kirk Ferentz admitted he failed to make the necessary changes to correct the culture of racial and cultural biases against African American players.

— Brian Ferentz, was also directly in the middle of many of the facts presented by African American student-athletes and discriminated against Iowa’s student-athletes for years without correction.

• Braithwaite witnessed and condoned the discriminatory treatment Plaintiffs suffered at the hand of Doyle. Nevertheless, he conspired with the other Defendants to thwart Plaintiffs Civil Rights claims during an October 9, 2020 press conference by feigning ignorance four days after Defendants received Plaintiffs October 5, 2020 demand letter.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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