Late Sunday night Iowa football fans, who were preparing for their first game week of the 2020 season, were dealt another in a long list of shocking headlines. Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register broke the news Sunday evening that eight former Hawkeye football players had hired legal counsel to submit a letter to the University of Iowa.
The letter, which was not published in its entirety, is 21-pages long, dated October 5th and reportedly includes a list of demands from the University. The demands include the firings of both head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, as well as $20 million. The Register reports the $20M is to be split two ways.
$10 million is to compensate the eight plaintiffs for “the loss of earning capacity, the loss of professional opportunities, defamation, pain and suffering, mental conditions, mental anguish, PTSD, humiliation and overall emotional distress”; the other $10 million is to be allocated to other former Hawkeyes who were affected by the alleged discrimination.
Additionally, the letter demands compensation for “attorney’s fees, the creation of a permanent Black male senior administrator position in Iowa athletics, mandatory anti-racist training for athletics staff, the establishment of a board of advisers including Black players and anti-racist professionals to oversee the football program and tuition waivers for any Black athlete who did not graduate with a degree during Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa.”
In their formal response, the UI notes many of those demands have already been met in some form. For instance, former player and personnel director Broderick Binns has been elevated to a newly created Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position over all of Iowa Athletics. While he is not technically part of the senior administration as demanded by the letter, Binns is part of a 13-member Hawkeye Leadership Team.
Following the Husch Blackwell report released in July, Ferentz also created an advisory committee made up of former players, led by David Porter, as well as shaken up the leadership council within the team, which now has a much more diverse makeup. More broadly, the athletics department already provides annual education on diversity.
For his part, Kirk Ferentz issued a statement later Sunday evening in response to the letter:
“I am disappointed to receive this type of demand letter. Due to the threat of litigation, I am not able to address the specific comments made by our former players. As you may know, this past summer we made adjustments to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all of our student-athletes. These changes include both policies and rules, as well as an expanded leadership council of current players and a new advisory committee comprised of former players.
I am deeply committed to helping everyone who joins the Hawkeye football program reach their full potential on and off the field. My focus is now on our current players who are preparing for our first game this Saturday.”
The letter, submitted by Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, was sent on behalf of eight former Iowa players. The players include the following:
- Maurice Fleming, DB, 2012-2015
- Andre Harris, WR, 2013-2015
- Marcel Joly, RB, 2014-2017
- Kevonte Martin-Manley, 2010-2014
- Aaron Mends, LB, 2014-2018
- Jonathan Parker, RB, 2013-2016
- Reggie Spearman, LB, 2013-2014
- Akrum Wadley, RB, 2013-2017
If the demands are not met by today, the first day in Iowa’s first game week of 2020, the letter indicates Solomon-Simmons and the players will be filing a lawsuit against the University of Iowa. The UI indicated in their response, “We respectfully decline your monetary and personnel demands.”
A full recap of the events and BHGP’s coverage of Iowa’s culture issues can be found here.