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After more than two years of delays and cover-ups by the University of Iowa football coaches and those who sought to protect them, Greenwood attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons announced that the Iowa State Appeals Board has approved a settlement of $4.175 million for his clients, who accused the University of Iowa of creating a racially hostile environment for Black players.

It’s one of the largest public settlements in the history of the state of Iowa for claims related to racial discrimination.

In addition to the historic monetary settlement, Solomon-Simmons secured valuable non-monetary benefits for his clients including:

  • Paid access to mental health treatment for one year;
  • Tuition waivers to return to the University of Iowa to complete their undergraduate studies;
  • $90,000 towards the graduate studies of six players seeking to further their education; 
  • Opportunities to participate in upcoming Iowa Pro Day events; and
  • Commitment to recruit Black coaches for coaching internships.

University of Iowa pays up after putting down Black players

Additionally, to help ensure Iowa takes the necessary steps to eradicate the hostile environment that has destroyed the hopes and dreams of so many Black athletes during Kirk Ferentz’s tenure, Iowa has agreed to retain the attorney’s preferred anti-racism consultant Dr. Leonard Moore, Solomon-Simmons stated in a press release.

Dr. Leonard Moore has spent years examining the intersection of race and sports in America, is the founder of the National Black Student Athlete Summit, and author of the groundbreaking book, Teaching Black History to White People.

Dr. Moore spends a great deal of time helping high-profile athletic programs across the country implement strategic diversity initiatives that help student-athletes excel both in the classroom and on the field, including two-time defending CFB National Champions the Georgia Bulldogs.

With this record-breaking settlement, the clients, twelve young Black men, who were subjected to intentional race discrimination by coaching staff and administration led by Coach Kirk Ferentz, Coach Chris Doyle, and Coach Brian Ferentz, not only received justice but are vindicated as well, Solomon-Simmons stated.

“It is disappointing that in the wake of this settlement, Kirk Ferentz continues to claim that he and his coaches did nothing wrong. This is refuted by the Husch Blackwell Law Firm Report that his own athletics department commissioned and paid for,” Solomon-Simmons said.

Racially hostile environment

The Report confirmed the racially hostile environment in his Hawkeye Football Program.

“Kirk Ferentz’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for his actions and those actions of his subordinates shows that as long as Kirk Ferentz is in charge at Iowa, Black players will be at risk for harassment, bullying, race-based threats, and retaliation that will deprive them of a meaningful opportunity to pursue a high-quality education while competing at the highest level of collegiate athletics,” Solomon-Simmons said.

“A racially hostile football program is Kirk Ferentz’s legacy. That is why we strongly hope that University of Iowa President Dr. Barbara J. Wilson listens to Iowa State Treasurer Roby Smith who encouraged Iowa to ‘re-examine relationships with Gary Barta, Brian Ferentz, and others named’, because as Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand stated recently, “[t]here’s a certain point at which an institution needs to communicate to the public that it isn’t just a group of insiders protecting each other.”

Solomon-Simmons said he also hopes that this litigation and settlement will cause all other university athletic programs to reevaluate their policies, environment, and culture to ensure that they are just, inclusive, and equitable for Black student-athletes.

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...