SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Black football players for Feather River College can sue the California community college, as well as its athletic director and head and assistant football coach, for alleged discrimination that ultimately deprived the plaintiffs of receiving scholarships with four-year universities, a federal judge ruled.
The athletes claimed that the coaches “insulted, abused and taunted” them. Assistant coach Josh White, for example, physically attacked black students, called them names and tried to pick fights, according to the complaint. Athletic director Merle Trueblood and head coach James Johnson allegedly knew about White’s conduct but failed to do anything about it.
Rather than address the discrimination, the defendants changed the Quincy, Calif., school’s football team player ratio to predominately white, cutting black players from the lineup.
In their motion to dismiss the Title VI claim for racially hostile educational environment, the school argued that players were not subjected to “severe or pervasive harassment,” and that any alleged harassment did not interfere with their education.
But U.S. District Judge John Mendez disagreed Thursday. In addition to allegedly facing racial discrimination at the federally funded school, the students said this discrimination interfered with their ability to receive school credit. One of the athletes dropped out of college, while another finished his degree by taking online classes. All three lost the ability to apply for football scholarships, even though they were academically and athletically qualified.
The players also alleged equal-protection claims under the 14th Amendment, stemming from Trueblood and Johnson’s alleged decision to “change the face” of the football team by intentionally cutting the plaintiffs and other black players in favor of white athletes.
Located at the border of the Plumas National Forest, Feather River College is a public, two-year community college accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.