Former Iowa State University tennis player Erin Freeman has settled a civil rights lawsuit with the university for $100,000.
The terms of the agreement, excerpts of which were reprinted by the Des Moines Register, allows Iowa State to settle without admitting any wrongdoing. Despite paying out a substantial award, the school says its decision “does not constitute any admission of wrong-doing or any admission of violations of applicable law, rule, regulation or policy by either party.”
Neither Freeman nor Iowa State is permitted by the settlement terms to offer comment on the case’s outcome.
The initial complaint, filed by attorney Don M. Jackson of Alabama, describes Freeman and another African-American member of the 2017 Iowa State tennis team as being “subjected to repeated acts of racial discrimination and sexual discrimination in violation of Title IX.”
Freeman, a California native, claimed that “representatives of Iowa State University created a hostile educational environment, have enlisted other student-athletes in their efforts to drive me (and the only other African-American team member) out of the Women’s Tennis Program, and have deprived me of educational opportunities based on my race.”
Jackson told the media that Iowa State allowed a “systematic lapse of authority” in within its sports programs, enabling some members of the Athletic Department to deny aid and resources to Freeman.
Shortly after Jackson’s statement, Iowa State announced that it decided not to renew the contract of its tennis coach, Armando Espinosa.
However, the school denied that Espinosa’s dismissal was a consequence of litigation.
“This decision was reached after our normal review period which follows the conclusion of the season, just as we do with all of our programs,” wrote senior associate athletics director Calli Sanders. “It was based entirely on … the program’s failure to improve competitively.”
“We recently opened a brand new practice center dedicated to our program and really felt that would inject some new life into the program, but that hasn’t materialized,” Sanders said in a May statement. “The Big 12 Conference is a very challenging league, but going winless was below everyone’s expectations.
The allegations in the original complaint, reports the Iowa State Daily, also make frequent mention of former assistant Coach Olga Elkin. Elkin is claimed to have “frequently engaged in openly hostile behavior towards both African-American players.” Freeman says the Elkin played a leading role in trying to “drive me out of the Women’s Tennis program.”
Freeman, writes the Des Moines Register, will receive $66,666.67 of the payout. The remaining $33,333.33 will be used to cover the costs incurred by The Sports Group, the firm which represented freeman in litigation and negotiations.