The attorney representing a dozen former Iowa soccer players who settled their racial discrimination lawsuit with the university’s athletic department for more than $4 million — half of it from taxpayers’ money — said Tuesday that Black Hawkeyes players continue to be the will be at risk of harassment while Kirk Ferentz is in charge.”
Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said in a press release that his clients have been confirmed and that he is pleased that the state appeals panel approved the $4.175 million settlement.
The board voted 2-1 on Monday to contribute $2 million in taxpayers’ money. Board member and state examiner Rob Sand opposed the proposal, saying the university’s athletic department had the funds to cover the settlement.
“The broadcast deal will bring in tens of millions of dollars every year going forward,” Sand said. “I don’t know why they can’t cover up their own mistakes and pay for their own mistakes instead of letting taxpayers do it.”
Coach Ferentz said on Monday he was “very disappointed” with the resolution of the matter. He said he and others named in the lawsuit believe “the case would have been dismissed with prejudice” before trial if it had not been resolved, and “there is no admission of wrongdoing.”
Solomon-Simmons said he was disappointed that Ferentz continued to “claim that he and his coaches did nothing wrong”.
A report commissioned and paid for by the athletic department “confirmed the anti-racial environment in his Hawkeye football program,” Solomon-Simmons said.
The lawsuit, filed in November 2020, involved former players, including former star running back Akrum Wadley and head of career receptions Kevonte Martin-Manley. They claimed they were humiliated with racial slurs, forced to abandon black hairstyles, fashion and culture to conform to the “Iowa Way” promoted by Ferentz, and retaliated for speaking out.
The players initially sought $20 million in damages, as well as the firings of athletic director Gary Barta, Ferentz and his son and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.
Sand agreed that Gary Barta should be fired.
“I can’t think of a private company that, after four discrimination lawsuits, is still headed by this person,” he said at his press conference on Monday.
Barta has served as Iowa’s athletic director since 2006. In a statement to the Appeals Committee, Sand noted that under Barta’s oversight, four counts of discrimination totaling almost $7 million in damages were found. The largest of these was $6.5 million to settle a 2017 lawsuit over the firing of former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum. The money used to pay that settlement came from the athletic department, which doesn’t rely on taxpayers’ money.
In response to a request for comment from Barta, the athletic department Monday sent a statement attributed to him, saying the department “remains committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, athletes and staff involved in our program.” “.
“Hawkeyes’ overall goal of winning every time we compete, graduating every student-athlete that comes to Iowa, and getting it right remains our focus,” the statement said.
State Treasurer Roby Smith and Department Head Kraig Paulsen are the other two members of the Complaints Committee.
Before voting yes, Paulsen said it was not up to the board to play a role in Barta’s employment status.
“We are here to make a decision about what is in the best interests of[Iowa]and it seems to me that upon the recommendation of the Attorney General, that is the wise decision,” Paulsen said, according to Des Moines KCCI.
Barta, Kirk Ferentz, Brian Ferentz and former strength coach Chris Doyle were released from the lawsuit last week, signaling a proposed settlement was imminent.
Doyle agreed to leave Iowa five months before filing the lawsuit after widespread allegations that the longtime strength coach used his position to bully and disparage former players, particularly black players. Iowa agreed to pay Doyle $1.1 million in a resignation agreement.
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