Could this gender discrimination lawsuit forever change college sports?

Tracey Greisbaum

Tracey Greisbaum Iowa University/Vice Sports

IOWA CITY, Iowa — An investigator with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission says a former Iowa women’s field hockey coach has a “reasonable possibility” of proving that gender or anti-gay discrimination played a role in her firing.

In a screening decision last month, investigator Benjamin Flickinger concluded that a reasonable person could infer that Tracey Griesbaum suffered discrimination when athletic director Gary Barta fired her in 2014 and that further investigation is warranted.

The university claims Griesbaum was fired over ongoing concerns about the way she treated players.

But Flickinger noted that the university’s investigative report didn’t substantiate any policy violations and that the one incident criticized as unprofessional also involved the assistant coach hired to replace her. He says it’s unclear why that report would have led to Griesbaum’s termination.

A 2015 article by Vice Sports entitled “The Gender Discrimination Lawsuit That Could Chance College Sports Forever” notes that many students were outraged over Greisbaum’s abrupt termination, particularly four of her former students:

Sophomores Chandler Ackers and Jessy Silfer, junior Natalie Cafone, and senior Dani Hemeon—took action in a way that’s virtually unprecedented in college athletics, attempting to hold their school responsible for Griesbaum’s dismissal.

Indeed, this is no ordinary Title IX complaint. While Griesbaum’s firing plays a central role in the case, the overall purpose is much bigger, as Newkirk and the four women attempt to take on the systemic inequality faced by women in athletics and the double standard of male and female coaches, who are supposed to be equal under Title IX law.

Ackers paraphrases thus: “Just because a woman coach is hard on an athlete doesn’t mean that’s inappropriate. We’re here for the same reason as men. We want to be pushed beyond our beliefs.”

The article continues:

That’s a strange way to file a complaint—arguing that yes, Griesbaum might be a demanding coach, but it shouldn’t matter. Because if she was a man, this likely would have been a non-issue, and because many female athletes believe that if their coach isn’t allowed to yell at them, they’re not afforded the same opportunities that male athletes are—opportunities that are guaranteed to them under Title IX. Ackers, who came to Iowa all the way from White Haven, Pennsylvania to play field hockey, wanted to be pushed by her coach when she got to Iowa City, and she said the school’s firing of Griesbaum denied her that opportunity.

h/t: Vice Sports

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