Eleventh Lawsuit Filed Against University’s Basketball Program
An 11th woman has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the University of South Florida and its former women’s basketball coach, claiming racist treatment in the program.
Last month Iris Fleming became the latest player to file suit in the case and her attorney, Jonathan Alpert, promised that a 12th lawsuit would be filed soon after.
Nine other players and a former coach also have filed $10 million in claims, accusing former coach Jerry Ann Winters of segregating and discriminating against Black players (See Black Issues, Sept. 14, 2000). The first of the lawsuits is set to go to trial in April.
Winters, who was fired from the university last year, has denied the allegations and is challenging her firing.
Meanwhile, Alpert announced that Stuart, Fla., attorney Willie Gary has joined the litigation as co-counsel. Gary is among the nation’s most prominent Black attorneys and has brought discrimination lawsuits seeking $5 billion in damages against Microsoft in a lawsuit brought by seven current and former employees who say they were passed over for promotions and paid less than White colleagues. Gary also has won a discrimination case against Disney World and is leading a similar $1.5 billion case against Coca-Cola Co.
Alpert said last month he had discovered a series of racist and pornographic e-mails sent to Winters. The e-mails showed Blacks with grossly exaggerated body parts, according to Alpert. Alpert says he doesn’t know if Winters ever read the e-mails, but says they are part of a pattern of racism at the university. The e-mails were sent to Winters by a friend.
“Where is the e-mail back saying, ‘Don’t send me these kinds of things?’ ” Alpert asks. “Where is the e-mail back saying, ‘This is offensive’?”
Winters issued a statement saying she never saw the e-mails and that Fleming recently said in a deposition that Black players were treated no differently on the team.
Winters says the e-mails were among many she received each day, and she never read them because she was too busy and didn’t open e-mail attachments because she was concerned about computer viruses. She says she didn’t even know the e-mails existed until Alpert revealed them.
Tom Gonzalez, a private attorney representing USF, says there’s no evidence Winters forwarded the material.
“This is a blatant attempt to try to coerce this university into settling this case,” Gonzalez says.
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