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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hoops Player Alleges Racial Bias at USD

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A University of San Diego basketball player claims that despite the "popular notion of progress in racial relations," the university subjects African-Americans to harassment and humiliation, and wrongfully accuses them of crimes. In a federal class action, Trumaine Johnson says he has repeatedly been the target of school officials' and local authorities' "practice of racial discrimination."

Though the USD has received millions of dollars in state and federal grants to create a culture of inclusion and diversity, the black student population barely exceeded 2 percent in 2009, Johnson says.

Johnson says he was unfairly accused of vandalizing a white student's car in December 2008, which led to his temporary suspension from the basketball team. Johnson says he cleared of the allegations.

Nonetheless, he says, head coach Bill Grier, defamed him to local and national news agencies in speaking about Johnson's suspension. Johnson says the vandalism allegation was fabricated and the suspension was "racially motivated."

After that brouhaha, on Feb. 8 this year, Johnson says, he was stopped by school security guard Jason Baker.

Johnson says he was "racially profiled, tackled to the ground by defendant Baker, kneed in the back, pepper sprayed in the face and then wrongfully arrested by Baker."

The complaint adds: "More than four San Diego police units containing some 11 San Diego police officers, and a fire truck, rolled up on the injured basketball player."

Johnson says a teammate and a professor witnessed the incident and his arrest, but officers refused to take statements from them.

"Sergeant Baker fabricated events to justify the unlawful attack he had just perpetrated against Mr. Johnson by telling police officers that Mr. Johnson had assaulted him and admitted to having a weapon, which plaintiff never said and never had," the complaint states.

The university took away his basketball scholarship on Feb. 23, Johnson says.

Johnson seeks damages for racial discrimination by a federally funded program, constitutional violations, conspiracy to violate civil rights, emotional distress, false imprisonment, assault and battery and negligent employment.

He is represented by Mary Prevost.

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