(CN) – A former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill women's field hockey player claims in court that coaches encouraged underage players to binge drink and promoted teammates whose parents made donations.
According to a lawsuit filed in Orange County, N.C., Mary Alexandra Gorry was harassed and bullied because she did not want to participate in heavy drinking with the team.
She alleges UNC field hockey coaches provided money to purchase alcohol for frequent team parties and attended the gatherings, encouraging underage players and recruits consume excessive amounts of alcohol during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons.
Gorry says coaches and fellow teammates made her drink alcohol while on the team bus. When she told them she had to drive later, they allegedly said “that doesn’t matter.”
According to the Sept. 22 lawsuit, coaches Karen Shelton and Gran Fultont, who are both named as defendants, told Gorry she would get more playing time if she participated in heavy drinking. Teammates who did participate were given leadership roles and more time on the field, Gorry says.
The complaint states that Shelton publicly praised Gorry for her athletic ability during her first semester of her freshman year in 2015, but she was demoted from the team’s starting lineup without any explanation after she refused to drink excessively at the parties.
“After her demotion from the starting team, a fellow student…informed Alex that parents of other team members were making monetary donations directly to defendant Shelton which enabled their daughters to receive more playing time, leadership roles on the team, and, for recruits, admission to the university,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant Shelton is thereby creating an atmosphere of discrimination and non-equality of all players, and does not allow players to succeed based solely on their merits as players, but on their willingness to consume excessive amounts of alcohol and the ability of their parents to make cash donations.”
The coaches allegedly went as far as to host a team party titled “Ho Ho Ho Holiday” and required the team members to wear lingerie. They took photos and posted them on the athletic department’s social media page, Gorry claims.
Gorry says she quit the team in January 2016 “due to the harassment and abuse she had suffered” over her unwillingness to participate in heavy drinking at team parties.
The lawsuit says the binge-drinking culture of the UNC women’s field hockey team is well known throughout the university community.
“In 2015, after the team was eliminated from national semi-finals round of the tournament in Michigan, the players and coaches went to a restaurant and consumed alcohol,” the complaint states. “Some of the team players consumed such an excessive amount of alcohol afterwards that they were almost prohibited by airline personnel from boarding their return flight to the university.”
Gorry’s father filed complaints with the athletic department about the hazing and harassment of his daughter, but he was ignored, she says.
The student-athlete seeks $30,000 plus punitive damages for claims of negligence and infliction of emotional distress. She is represented by Stanley Dean in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The UNC Athletic Department did not immediately respond Tuesday to a phone call requesting comment.
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