The lead attorney who sued the University of Iowa for racial discrimination over its football program said his clients were “validated” by Monday’s $4.2 settlement agreement.
The 12 black former soccer players were expected to receive an average of $184,200 apiece under the settlement agreement, with approximately $1.9 million in legal fees.
Tulsa-based civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons sent an email touting the additional measures outlined in the settlement, including $90,000 for the former players to graduate; paid psychological counseling for the next year; and the support of Dr. Leonard Moore, founder of the National Black Student-Athlete Summit, in support of Iowa’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in athletics through at least May 2024.
More:Paying $4 million in Iowa football discrimination lawsuit; Kirk Ferentz “disappointed” with the result
The 12 former players include former running back Akrum Wadley, who ranks fifth in school history with more than 3,500 rushing yards and had 35 touchdowns from 2014 through 2017, one just short of the program record.
The other players who signed the settlement agreement on February 23 were Darian Cooper, Javon Foy, Maurice Fleming, Terrence Harris, Marcel Joly, Kevonte Martin-Manley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker, Brandon Simon, Reggie Spearman and Laron Taylor.
Solomon-Simmons took offense in the email at Monday’s statement by longtime Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz that “there is no admission of wrongdoing” by the coaches recently dismissed from the lawsuit with prejudice — Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
“It’s disappointing that after this settlement, Kirk Ferentz continues to claim that he and his coaches did nothing wrong,” said Solomon-Simmons, a former Oklahoma football player. “This is contradicted by the (July 2020) Husch Blackwell Law Firm Report commissioned and paid for by his own athletics department.
The billing data:$4.175 million and other measures
“Kirk Ferentz’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for his actions and the actions of his subordinates demonstrates that as long as Kirk Ferentz is in charge of Iowa, Black players are at risk of harassment, bullying, racial threats and retaliation, which will deprive them of a meaningful opportunity to pursue a quality education while competing at the highest level of collegiate athletics.
“An anti-racial football program is the legacy of Kirk Ferentz. For that reason, we sincerely hope that University of Iowa President Dr. Barbara J. Wilson, listening to Iowa State Treasurer Roby Smith, who has encouraged Iowa to “reexamine relationships with (athletic director) Gary Barta, Brian Ferentz and others named.”
“We also hope that this litigation and settlement will result in all of the university’s other athletic programs re-evaluating their policies, environment and culture to ensure they are equitable, inclusive and equitable to black student-athletes.”
Barta’s status has come into focus this week.
The Iowa AD has presided over four discrimination lawsuits in the past seven years since 2006, receiving a total of $11.2 million in awards. Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand on Monday opposed using $2 million in state funding for the settlement unless Barta is ousted from his position.
More:Why the state decided to settle, what can be done next
Although Sand was outnumbered 2-1 in the settlement vote, the Iowa state legislature has taken note. State Senator Annette Sweeney spoke in the Senate this week calling for Barta’s release.
“There’s a stench hanging over our great university, and it’s called Gary Barta,” Sweeney said. “In 16 years of his tenure, he has cost the university millions of dollars.”
The Des Moines Register made multiple contacts Monday and Tuesday with Wilson, the president who has the power to remove the athletic director. Wilson has a track record of acting; When she was interim chancellor at the University of Illinois, she fired then-Illini AD Mike Thomas in November 2015 following an investigation into the abuse of soccer and basketball players.
When asked to interview the Register to discuss the high-profile settlement and Barta’s status as an AD, a spokesman for Wilson simply replied, “We’re not interested.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered esports for The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen for 28 years. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.