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Diverse Docket: Basketball Player Loses Scholarship, Court Case

A former basketball player who lost her athletic scholarship for poor performance on the court has also lost a court case accusing Central Michigan University of discrimination because she is White and heterosexual.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously refused to reinstate Brooke Heike’s equal protection suit against CMU, her coach, the athletic director and a financial aid official.

The three-judge panel found insufficient evidence to support the allegations and said the university provided adequate due process by granting Heike a hearing on its decision not to renew her scholarship.

The court recognized great deference to the discretion of coaches, saying, “A coach’s decisions about who plays, how much playing time each player gets and whether a player remains part of the team at the end of a seasons are, by their nature, based on a vast array of subjective, individualized assessments.”

CMU recruited Heike, a star high school player, for 2006-07. She got a year-to-year athletic grant, as NCAA rules allow.

The university renewed her award for a second year but not for a third. She received little game time and performed poorly when she did play under a former coach during her freshman year and under current head coach Susan Guevara.

At a committee hearing, Heike raised the question of racial or sexual orientation discrimination and said Guevara and the coaching staff singled her out for being “too girly” and not tough enough. At the same hearing, Guevara criticized Heike’s skills, work ethic, attitude and initiative.

A lower-court judge tossed out the case without trial.

In upholding that decision, the 6th Circuit rejected Heike’s argument that Guevara’s alleged preference for “thug” or “ghetto” players was direct evidence of race-based discrimination.

In addition, it said that the data don’t show discrimination, “only that other players — “some Black and some White — got more playing time than Heike or remained on a Guevara-coached team despite poor statistics.”

As for the anti-heterosexual claim, the court said sexual orientation is not a suspect class for equal protection purposes and ruled that the allegation is barred.

“Her lawsuit raises the perhaps commonly contemplated but seldom actually litigated question: What legal recourse is available to an athlete who believes her coach has treated her unfairly?” it said. “In this case, the answer is none.”

Adjunct Loses Discrimination Suit

A White, U.S.-born adjunct economics instructor passed over three times for full-time permanent positions has lost a discrimination and retaliation suit against Northern Virginia Community College.

Dr. William McNaught, who was an adjunct, applied for permanent jobs starting in 2007. His previous teaching experience included the Naval Academy, George Mason, Georgetown, Harvard and Johns Hopkins.

The college filled the positions with applicants from India, Senegal and Korea.

He sued for national origin discrimination, identifying his national origin, ancestry and ethnicity as “from the United States and European.” The suit also claimed the college refused to rehire him as an adjunct for two terms in retaliation for filing EEOC complaints.

U.S. District Judge James Cacheris of Alexandria agreed with McNaught that Europeans are a protected group for national origin purposes.

However, Cacheris said the college had demonstrated a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for not hiring him, including “low evidence of outstanding teaching” and the selection committee’s overall evaluation of his applications.

“The variations on each committee member’s definition of a core selection characteristic are not the same as an employer offering inconsistent and constantly shifting explanations for its hiring decision,” he said.

On the retaliation claim, the judge said McNaught showed no “causal connection” between his EEOC complaints and adverse employment actions by the college.

He is still on the adjunct faculty, according to the decision and college website.

A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
American sport has always served as a platform for resistance and has been measured and critiqued by how it responds in critical moments of racial and social crises.
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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics