Iowa Football

Lawyer of 8 former Iowa football players asking for money and dismissals of Ferentzes and Barta responds

Iowa said it will not cede to his demands

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during a news conference at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, July 16
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during a news conference at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, July 16, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Oklahoma civil rights attorney representing eight former University of Iowa football players asking for the dismissal of head coach Kirk Ferentz, assistant coach Brian Ferentz and athletics director Gary Barta and for $20 million in repunitive damages from the school for intentional race discrimation sent a letter to media outlets, including The Gazette late Monday night in response to Iowa officially telling him it would not be caving to his demands.

Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons has asked for $10 million in reparations to his clients (former players Kevonte Martin-Manley, Akrum Wadley, Marcel Joly, Maurice Fleming, Reggie Spearman, Aaron Mends, Andre Harris and Jonathan Parker) and another $10 million to other players who suffered what Solomon-Simmons claims is racial harrassment and bullying.

Iowa officially declined Solomon-Simmons’ offer in a response letter through its general counsel.

“To be clear, the details in our demand letter are not mere allegations,” Solomon-Simmons said. “These are incidents that actually occurred under Kirk Ferentz’s watch, with his knowledge and blessing, incidents that the University has not denied and cannot deny such as coaches saying things like:

— ‘Only a dumb ass Black player would do it like that!’

— ‘This (n-word), this (n-word), this (n-word)’

— ‘Go back to the ghetto’

“In our letter we gave Iowa and the offending individuals an opportunity to privately engage with us to discuss meaningful anti-racist reforms and just compensation for all Black athletes that Iowa demeaned, disrespected, and discrimated against. Specifically, we made it clear that the Program must take the necessary steps to eradicate the hostile environment that has destroyed the hopes and dreams of so many Black athletes during Kirk Ferentz’s tenure. We made it clear that if the Program was serious about ensuring the well-being of its Black athletes, it must act with the specific intention and expend the resources necessary to remedy the well-documented anti-Black, racist culture our clients experienced, and that currently exists at Iowa.”

“In response, it appears Iowa released our confidential letter to the media with the sole intention of trying to shame and intimidate our courageous clients. It did not work. In fact, Iowa’s move has not only strengthened the resolve of our clients to continue to stand up for their rights and the rights of their teammates. Our clients appreciate Iowa making it clear to all Black student-athletes, former, present, and prospective, that under the current leadership at Iowa anti-Black racism is acceptable. Iowa’s actions and “blindspot” will prove to be an impediment to Black prospective student-athletes attending Iowa.”

Iowa conducted an independent investigation of its football program over the summer through a Kansas City law firm, after many former Black Iowa players went on social media and expressed their negative experiences at the school, especially with strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

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Doyle was dismissed from his job with a $1.1 million settlement. No other coaches in the program lost their jobs.

The independent investigation found systemic issues within the program that Iowa said it is beginning to address, such as allowing players to engage on social media and a relaxed dress code within the football complex. It also hired former player and assistant coach Broderick Binns to the position of Executive Director of Adversity, Diversity and Equality for the Iowa athletics program.

“In closing, we are awaiting word from Iowa whether they will accept Service of the lawsuit and plan to file shortly thereafter,” the letter from Solomon-Simmons said. ”We look forward to vindicating our clients’ rights and holding all wrongdoers accountable in court.”

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

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