Citing discrimination, JC football players explain suit against MCCCD

MESA — Saying the elimination of football has denied African-American players “their civil rights,” an attorney representing 11 of them met with media Thursday to express concerns about the motivation of the Maricopa County Community College District.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix in December, said the players have suffered “the indignity of discrimination” after the district eliminated football at all four of its community colleges that had the sport. The 11 Maricopa County junior college players believe the move violates federal law because African-American students, who make up 62 percent of players at the four schools, are disproportionately impacted by it.

“We were approached by the players,” attorney Phillip Austin said. “It took a little bit of investigating to see if we had a case.

“But after looking through documentation … we approached the district saying, ‘Hey we want to work this out’ and at every turn they rebuffed us.”

Throughout the press conference, Austin reinforced that he felt he had sufficient evidence on the record to suggest that both a racial and an anti-sport bias was present in the governing board of the MCCCD.

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Going to court, however, is not the planned endgame, Austin said. He and the players want the district to reach out and begin a dialogue in order to reinstate the programs.

Mesa Community College’s Darius Glover, a freshman defensive back and one of the 11 plaintiffs, said football has given him important life lessons that he wasn’t getting at home.

“I don’t have a father figure in my life,” he said. “So (my) coach being that guide for me, teaching my right from wrong and not hanging out with the wrong crew really showed me what it was like to have a family.”

Phoenix College defensive back Andre Adams, a graduate of Mountain Pointe High School, said he saw firsthand what going down the wrong path can lead to and doesn’t want that to happen to him.

“My brother, he’s in prison right now and I don’t want to go that route,” he said. “I had a mom and dad that raised me right and football kept me out of trouble.”

For the players who spoke, many of the stories shared were similar. Many spoke of the importance of the junior college experience, of having football to keep them from making the wrong choices.

The basis for the claim is clear, Austin said.

“This decision has done two things,” Austin said. “(It) has created an obstacle for these students to achieve that goal (of academic and athletic success), but (it) also has denied them their civil rights under Title XI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment of the constitution.”

Austin said he continually hears from players who wish to be included as plaintiffs.

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