COLLEGE: 8 former players, athletic trainer sue Lenoir-Rhyne University

Published Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

They’re seeking more than $26 million in damages

from school, women’s head basketball coach, school president

 

By CHRIS HOBBS

HobbsDailyReport.com

Despite an independent investigation saying no racism was found in the Lenoir-Rhyne University women’s basketball program, the school is not yet clear of those allegations.

Late last week, eight former players and an athletic trainer filed a federal lawsuit seeking at least $26 million in damages from LRU, women’s head basketball coach Grahm Smith and LRU President Fredrick Whitt (see a copy of the 32-page lawsuit, obtained by HobbsDailyReport.com, below).

SMITH

On Tuesday, Marketing Communication Specialist Cory Butzin of LRU responded to an e-mail inquiry and said the university has not yet been served with the lawsuit and has no comment at this time.

Plantiffs in the lawsuit are former Bears women’s basketball players Laney Fox (Parkland, Fla.), Nakia Hooks (Auburn, Ga.), Ashley Woodroffe (Flowery Branch, Ga.), Sydney Wilson (Henderson, Tenn.), Tamerah Brown (Sumter, S.C.), Kennedy Weight (Monteo, Ill.), Korbin Tipton (Chatsworth, Ga.) and Michaela Dixon (Charlotte), plus athletic trainer Fatou Sall (Raleigh).

Fox is also suing LRU and Whitt for libel, alleging Whitt’s public comments on April 17 — after she released an open letter on April 6 about her experiences – are defamatory.

FOX

Fox told HobbsDailyReport.com on Tuesday she’s entered the NCAA transfer portal. She has not yet decided where she might transfer and try to play basketball this next season.

In the lawsuit, the plantiffs allege LRU, Smith, Whitt and others in position of authority in the athletic department have violated their rights regarding: breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, tortious interference with contractual rights, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage and libel.

WHITT

The lawsuit was filed in superior court in Charlotte by the Winston-Salem law firm of Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy and Kennedy, LLP.

Fox, Hooks and Wilson are suing regarding how no longer playing basketball at LRU (or potentially elsewhere) could negatively impact their desire to try to play in the WNBA or in Europe.

LRU hired the Charlotte law firm of Parker and Poe to investigate the women’s basketball program, which removed Fox, who is white, from the team after she spearheaded conversations about the racial climate at LRU.

Fox said she was told, by Smith and others, she no longer fit into the culture/direction for LRU women’s basketball.

The Parker and Poe investigation, released July 2, said:

— There is no evidence the current women’s basketball coaching staff promotes or facilitates a culture of racial insensitivity.

— Smith’s communications and decisions relating to non-returning women’s basketball players were motivated by legitimate reasons unrelated to race or social justice.

— Smith’s decision to dismiss Fox from the women’s basketball team was based on a loss of trust and what he perceived to be her lack of commitment and buy-in to the women’s basketball program.

LAWSUIT SEEKS MORE THAN $26 MILLION IN DAMAGES: COPY OF LAWSUIT FILED JULY 8 AGAINST LRU

FOX INDICATES HER CONCERNS (April 20): https://hobbsdailyreport.com/lenoir-rhyne-university-womens-basketball/womens-college-basketball-ex-lenoir-rhyne-says-her-concerns-about-racism-got-her-kicked-off-team/

PRESIDENT WHITT’S VIDEO TO THE LRU COMMUNITY: https://hobbsdailyreport.com/lenoir-rhyne-university-womens-basketball/womens-college-basketball-lru-presidents-updated-video-response/

STORY ON INVESTIGATION FINDINGS: https://hobbsdailyreport.com/lenoir-rhyne-sports/breaking-news-investigation-of-lenoir-rhyne-womens-basketball-program-says-no-racism-found/

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