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FAMU coach loses job over sexual harassment claims

A controversial legal battle has ended the career of a baseball coach at Florida A&M University, according to media reports. The man, who had coached for more than 10 years, will be fired from his position in the athletics department because of allegations of sexual harassment. The charges were brought by a walk-on infielder who was cut from the team on two separate occasions.

The coach is accused of making rude and offensive statements to the player, allegedly threatening to dress the man in a bra and other ladies’ attire because of his poor playing skills. The player also alleges that he was offended by the coach’s foul language and other inappropriate comments.

As with many sexual harassment cases, this suit hinged upon sworn statements provided by witnesses; 24 baseball team members were interviewed in connection with the alleged incidents. About half of those players reportedly signed statements swearing that they had not witnessed any harassment. Players who provided testimony in the case said they interpreted the coach’s comments as good-natured ribbing, a practice common among coaches nation-wide. Some even said that the comments were not directed toward the plaintiff, but rather toward the team as a whole.

In this case, university officials have reacted with contempt, saying that the player has effectively prevented coaches from doing their jobs at public institutions. Still, if the coaches were treating players with more respect, the sexual harassment allegations would never have surfaced.

The coach himself calls the allegations defamatory, even though several players confirmed the plaintiff’s accusations. He will not return to coach at the school for a second season. He abandoned his defense case after realizing that he was unlikely to prevail in a session before an independent tribunal. It is not clear whether the player will be recovering financial damages in connection with the case.

Source: USA Today, “FAMU baseball coach fired amid sexual harassment claim,” St. Clair Murraine, Jan. 17, 2013.