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Rutgers Hoops Players Sue the College

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CN) - Two Rutgers hoops players who say they were among those abused by coach Michael Rice have sued the coach and university for assault and battery, gross negligence and other charges.

Rice was fired in April last year after videotape showed him hitting and kicking players in practice, throwing balls at them and demeaning them with anti-gay slurs.

After the abuse made national news, Rutgers commissioned an independent report on the basketball program, and the administration's response to the abuse.

Athletic director Tim Pernetti and the university's chief counsel John Wolf resigned after it was found that they had recommended that Rice be suspended but not fired. President Robert Barchi rebuffed calls for him to step down.

Jerome Seagears, who is still a student at Rutgers, and former student Robert Lumpkins sued Rutgers (a state university); president Robert L. Barchi; former president Richard L. McCormick; Rice, Pernetti, and new hoops coach Eddie Jordan, in Middlesex County Court.

In their lawsuit, Seagears and Lumpkins are less than impressed with Rutgers' response to the scandal. They claim that the university acted only after it was "compelled to publicly address the outrageous, and until then, concealed abuse that was being committed by defendant Rice against the plaintiffs and others" - i.e., the leaked videotape.

The complaint continues: "This abuse was documented for the entire world to see through video footage of team practices, publicly released by ESPN's television program, 'Outside the Lines' in April of 2013, which reflected plaintiffs and other players being violently grabbed, kicked, shoved and berated by defendant Rice. In fact, plaintiff Lumpkins is directly viewed as one of the players subject to verbal and mental abuse on the video. The release of such videos in April of 2013 has caused plaintiffs great shame, humiliation and embarrassment and continues to do so even today. ...

"The video shows defendant Rice grabbing, shoving and kicking players and hurling basketballs directly at their heads and bodies. Defendant Rice can also be heard berating his players with abusive and profane language including homophobic slurs. According to Mr. [assistant coach Eric] Murdock, 'it often got worse after the camera was shut off.'"

Seagears and Lumpkins seek treble damages and punitive damages for negligence, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, retaliation, interference with prospective economic advantage, civil conspiracy, assault and battery and other charges.

They are represented by Audwin F. Levasseur of Fort Lee.

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