BOISE (CN) — An Idaho State University tennis player claims in court that one of his coaches bullied him for being Mormon and hazed him by sending two prostitutes to his room to proposition him with sex.
Orin Duffin grew up in Idaho Falls. He went to Idaho State in 2014 on a tennis scholarship, he says in his May 20 federal complaint. Idaho State is in Pocatello.
Duffin says his dream to play collegiate tennis turned into a nightmare when his coaches and teammates learned about his religion.
“Almost immediately, assistant coach Nate Gross began to harass plaintiff because of his religious affiliation and beliefs,” he says in the c omplaint. “The conduct intensified over the course of the season and plaintiff was harassed and subjected to offensive questions and disparaging and discriminatory remarks and conduct.”
For instance, Duffin says, Gross asked whether “Mormons can masturbate,” and if Duffin “was permitted to go to strip clubs.”
The harassment escalated after he told his coaches and teammates he had received his mission call and would go to Taiwan after the 2014-2015 season to serve the church, Duffin says. He says head coach Bobby Goeltz retaliated by pulling him from doubles matches.
On a trip to Las Vegas for a tournament, Duffin says, Gross took players to a strip club and bought them alcohol, then sent two prostitutes to his room to proposition him with sex.
“The women asked plaintiff if he was interested in ‘having a good time,'” according to the complaint. “Gross sent the women to plaintiff’s room to tempt him to violate his religious tenets and to sexually harass and embarrass him.”
Duffin says he sent the women away.
He says Goeltz knew about the prostitutes but did nothing about it, and that Gross followed up by questioning his sexuality, saying, “maybe he doesn’t swing that way,” and calling him a “fucker” and a “pussy.”
Teammates eventually reported the harassment to school officials. “One teammate reported to ISU that ‘I don’t think they would have done that if he wasn’t Mormon,'” according to the complaint.
Idaho State’s Title IX administrator Stacey Gibson investigated and confirmed the bullying, Duffin says.
“‘The interviews collectively paint a clear picture that the [plaintiff] was subjected to severe, persistent and pervasive harassment and bullying,'” according to the complaint, which cites Gibson’s report. “‘In particular, they establish that the [plaintiff’s] religion was a contributing factor of that treatment; that [coach Gross] actively participated in that harassment; and that [coach Goeltz] accepted a team culture that promulgated such harassment and/or bullying of the [plaintiff] by [Gross] and members of the men’s tennis team.'” (Brackets in complaint.)
Gibson recommended that Goeltz be fired and noted that Gross had already resigned, the complaint states.
Duffin’s attorney, Sam Angell, said Duffin’s family did not want him to comment.
Idaho State information officer Andy Taylor said the university does not comment on pending litigation.
Duffin sued Goeltz and Gross, the university, its president Arthur Vailas, and athletic director Jeff Tingey. He seeks lost scholarship benefits and punitive damages for religious discrimination, violations of due process and free speech, conspiracy, negligence, gross negligence, negligent supervision, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, plus costs of suit.
Attorney Angell is with Hall Angel Starnes, in Idaho Falls.
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