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Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Eight black former Iowa football players demand $20 million and the firing of head coach Kirk Ferentz 'after enduring racist discrimination' - but the school refuses to comply

 Eight black former University of Iowa football players are demanding $20 million and the firing of head coach Kirk Ferentz over alleged racial discrimination they encountered while playing for the Hawkeyes, but the school is refusing to acquiesce. 

The university general counsel's office released its response Sunday to a 21-page certified letter dated October 5 from civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is representing the players.

'We respectfully decline your monetary and personnel demands,' read the letter from general counsel Carroll Reasoner. 


The players also called for the firings offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, Kirk's son, and athletic director Gary Barta. 

Solomon-Simmons' letter said if the demands are not met by Monday, the former players are prepared to file a lawsuit seeking damages for the unlawful mistreatment they said they endured. Solomon-Simmons did not immediately respond to The Associated Press' request for comment.  

The players say they are prepared to proceed with the lawsuit 'to ensure they are rightfully compensated for their emotional, mental and bodily damages and that Iowa is appropriately held accountable for its unlawful, discriminatory conduct.' 

The Des Moines Register first reported the demands and university's response.

The former players are Akrum Wadley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker, Marcel Joly, Maurice Fleming, Reggie Spearman, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Andre Harris.  

Eight black former University of Iowa football players are demanding $20 million and the firing of head coach Kirk Ferentz (pictured) over alleged racial discrimination they encountered while playing for the Hawkeyes, but the school is refusing to acquiesce

Eight black former University of Iowa football players are demanding $20 million and the firing of head coach Kirk Ferentz (pictured) over alleged racial discrimination they encountered while playing for the Hawkeyes, but the school is refusing to acquiesce

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta
Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz

The eight black former Hawkeyes players also called for the firings offensive line coach Brian Ferentz (right), Kirk's son, and athletic director Gary Barta (left)

In June, the athletic department cut ties with longtime strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle (in black), who received $1.1 million in a severance agreement. Doyle, who earned $800,000 per year and was the highest paid strength and conditioning coach in college football, has denied any 'unethical behavior or bias' based on race. Under the separation agreement, Doyle will be paid 15 months' salary and for unused vacation. There will be two payments of $556,249.50 - the first on August 1 and the second on January 1. Doyle agreed not to take any legal action against the university, the board of regents or state of Iowa

In June, the athletic department cut ties with longtime strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle (in black), who received $1.1 million in a severance agreement. Doyle, who earned $800,000 per year and was the highest paid strength and conditioning coach in college football, has denied any 'unethical behavior or bias' based on race. Under the separation agreement, Doyle will be paid 15 months' salary and for unused vacation. There will be two payments of $556,249.50 - the first on August 1 and the second on January 1. Doyle agreed not to take any legal action against the university, the board of regents or state of Iowa

'I am disappointed to receive this type of demand letter,' Kirk Ferentz said. 'Due to the threat of litigation, I am not able to address the specific comments made by our former players. As you may know, this past summer we made adjustments to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our student-athletes.'


University President Bruce Harreld said in a statement the school appreciated the former players sharing insights on their experiences and that many of their concerns have been reviewed and addressed.

'There are several demands outlined in the letter and we are proud of the efforts made to date,' Harreld said. 'We have a path forward that includes ideas and recommendations from many current and former students aimed at making the University of Iowa a more inclusive and better place to learn, grow and compete as an athlete. However, the university rejects the demands for money and personnel changes.' 

Jonathan Parker #10 of the Iowa Hawkeyes runs the ball as Earnest Thomas III #9 of the Illinois Fighting Illini pursues at Memorial Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Champaign, Illinois
Former Hawkeyes player Andre Harris

The former players are Akrum Wadley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker (left), Marcel Joly, Maurice Fleming, Reggie Spearman, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Andre Harris (right)

Former Iowa Hawkeyes running back Marcel Joly (right) is among the eight players

Former Iowa Hawkeyes running back Marcel Joly (right) is among the eight players 

The university in June hired the Husch Blackwell law firm to review the football program after dozens of former players, most of them black, spoke out on social media to allege racial disparities and mistreatment. 

Former Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley is among the eight players who demanded $20 million and the firing of head coach Kirk Ferentz, which the school refused

Former Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley is among the eight players who demanded $20 million and the firing of head coach Kirk Ferentz, which the school refused

Their activism came as protests against racial injustice swept the nation following the death of George Floyd and after attempts to raise concerns inside the program resulted in only minor changes.

In June, the athletic department cut ties with longtime strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who received $1.1 million in a severance agreement. Several players had accused Doyle of using racial slurs when addressing them, an allegation he denied. Brian Ferentz also was alleged to have been abusive to players.

Doyle, who earned $800,000 per year and was the highest paid strength and conditioning coach in college football, has denied any 'unethical behavior or bias' based on race. 

Under the separation agreement, Doyle will be paid 15 months' salary and for unused vacation. There will be two payments of $556,249.50 - the first on August 1 and the second on January 1. Doyle agreed not to take any legal action against the university, the board of regents or state of Iowa. 

The report said many black players did not feel welcome or supported in the program. Players reported that they were long not allowed to wear 'do-rags,' tank tops, earrings or other jewelry in the football building and were discouraged from getting tattoos or having certain hair styles. Black players said they felt singled out. Ferentz (front, facing left) eliminated rules on jewelry and hats and instructed his staff not to critique hair styles or tattoos last year after an athletic department review raised racial bias concerns

The report said many black players did not feel welcome or supported in the program. Players reported that they were long not allowed to wear 'do-rags,' tank tops, earrings or other jewelry in the football building and were discouraged from getting tattoos or having certain hair styles. Black players said they felt singled out. Ferentz (front, facing left) eliminated rules on jewelry and hats and instructed his staff not to critique hair styles or tattoos last year after an athletic department review raised racial bias concerns

Former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels, now with the Chicago Bears, was the first to raise the issue of the Iowa staff's treatment of players.

'There are too many racial disparities in the Iowa football program. Black players have been treated unfairly for far too long,' Daniels tweeted June 5.

Former Iowa safety Diauntae Morrow (pictured) alleged Doyle had told him he would send him 'back to the ghetto.' Morrow ultimately transferred to Toledo

Former Iowa safety Diauntae Morrow (pictured) alleged Doyle had told him he would send him 'back to the ghetto.' Morrow ultimately transferred to Toledo 

Dozens of former players followed with social media posts about their experiences, with many accusing Doyle of making racist remarks and belittling players. Doyle was placed on paid administrative leave June 6. 

Former Iowa linebacker Terrance Pryor said Doyle had told him he should take up rowing, then added, 'Oh, wait, black people don't like boats in water, do they?' Former safety Diaunte Morrow alleged Doyle had told him he would send him 'back to the ghetto.' 

Former defensive back Emmanuel Rugamba told of Doyle admonishing a black teammate and then asked him why he walked with swagger. 

'I'll put you back on the streets,' Doyle told the teammate, according to Rugamba. 

As Rugamba explained on Twitter, 'the kid comes from a happy home with both parents.' 

The internal review, which included interviews with 111 current and former players and employees, found the cultural problems were systemic.

Former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels (pictured), now with the Chicago Bears, was the first to raise the issue of the Iowa staff's treatment of players

Former Iowa offensive lineman James Daniels (pictured), now with the Chicago Bears, was the first to raise the issue of the Iowa staff's treatment of players

The report said many black players did not feel welcome or supported in the program. Players reported that they were long not allowed to wear 'do-rags,' tank tops, earrings or other jewelry in the football building and were discouraged from getting tattoos or having certain hair styles. Black players said they felt singled out, isolated and forced to suppress their personalities.

Ferentz eliminated rules on jewelry and hats and instructed his staff not to critique hair styles or tattoos last year after an athletic department review raised racial bias concerns.

Former defensive back Emmanuel Rugamba told of Doyle admonishing a black teammate and then asked him why he walked with swagger. 'I'll put you back on the streets,' Doyle told the teammate, who Rugamba said came 'from a happy home with both parents'

Former defensive back Emmanuel Rugamba told of Doyle admonishing a black teammate and then asked him why he walked with swagger. 'I'll put you back on the streets,' Doyle told the teammate, who Rugamba said came 'from a happy home with both parents'

Solomon-Simmons' letter asked the university to make a payment of $10 million 'for the loss of earning capacity, loss of professional opportunities, defamation, pain and suffering, mental conditions, mental anguish, PTSD, humiliation, and overall emotional distress that our clients have incurred.'

In addition, the letter asked for $10 million to set up a fund established for athletes, not including the eight former football payers, to compensate them 'for the discrimination and ongoing severe and pervasive acts that constitute intentional discrimination where Defendants intended to treat African-American differently.'

Also requested, among other things: attorney's fees, mandatory annual anti-racist training for all athletic department staff, the creation of a permanent Senior Black Male Administrator position and tuition waivers for black athletes who attended Iowa during Ferentz's 22 years and did not graduate. 

Reasoner, UI vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, wrote in her response to Solomon-Simmons that steps have been taken to create a better environment for black athletes.

Reasoner pointed out that Broderick Binns, a black former Iowa football player, was recently named director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in athletics. Reasoner also said former player David Porter, who is black, heads an an advisory committee 'to improve the football climate' and that coaches and staff receive training on diversity issues.

The Hawkeyes open the season Saturday at Purdue.

Former Hawkeyes wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley is also among the eight players

Former Hawkeyes wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley is also among the eight players 

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