Former Fla. Basketball Player Sues University, Alleging Racism
A year after an internal investigation found evidence of racism in the University of South Florida women’s basketball program, a former player has filed a lawsuit claiming Blacks were singled out and segregated on the team. Dione Smith, a three-year starter dismissed by coach Jerry Ann Winters in April, filed the lawsuit last month in federal court. The lawsuit seeks remedies in the basketball program and names as defendants the university, which is based in Tampa, athletic director Paul Griffin and Winters. The lawsuit alleges Winters, the team’s coach for four seasons, often used a racial slur in referring to Blacks, including members of her team. It also alleges Winters segregated the players on road trips, treated Black players more harshly and separated the players by skin color during practice. Winters declined to comment on the allegations to local news organizations.Last season’s team consisted of eight Whites, four Blacks and one Hispanic. Three of the five starters were Black. Smith says she was cut after a team bus trip when she made comments that questioned Winters’ job security. “The only thing I’ve ever dreamed about was playing basketball,” Smith says. “But this cycle can’t keep on going. Someone had to step up.”Harry Battson, South Florida’s associate vice president for public affairs, says the university would take action if any wrongdoing is substantiated. Last year, university officials investigated allegations of racism and concluded such comments were commonly made. Winters was ordered to attend a diversity seminar, and in turn ordered her team to attend with her. The case was then closed.
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