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2nd Circuit Reinstates |Ex-Coach’s Bias Claim

NEW YORK (CN) - The 2nd Circuit restored a lawsuit brought by former Iona College assistant basketball coach Craig Holcomb, who claims he was fired in 2004 because of his interracial marriage to a black woman.

The court ruled that Holcomb, who is white, may proceed with his Title VII claim that his firing was racially motivated. Holcomb pointed to the college's decision to bar student athletes and his wife from alumni organization events as evidence that officials at the college in New Rochelle were looking for reasons to limit the number of black people at fundraising events.

He claims some officials made frequent racial slurs, such as then-athletics director Richard Petriccione, who allegedly told Holcomb that the basketball program needed to "keep (its) niggers in line" after several black team members were accused of stealing phone access codes.

Holcomb also claims Petriccione called a female Nigerian employee "jungle bunny" and "African princess," and responded to an inquiry about whether he received Holcomb's wedding invitation by saying, "You're really going to marry that Aunt Jemima? You really are a nigger lover."

Petriccione called the accusations "ridiculous," while Iona College said Holcomb's firing had nothing to do with race and everything to do with the team's poor performance.

"We emphasize that Holcomb has adduced little evidence to suggest that he was terminated solely because his wife is black," Judge Calabresi wrote. "But he needs only to prove that the decision was partly so motivated to prevail on the ultimate merits of his claim."

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