Former women’s players sue DSU

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Two former women’s basketball players are seeking legal action against Dixie State University for racial, religious and sexual discrimination.

The lawsuit also includes former head coach Catherria Turner and Athletic Director Jason Boothe as defendants.

Turner served as the women’s basketball head coach for the 2013-2014 season. According to her termination letter, Turner was fired Nov. 7, 2014 for “withholding critical information from the athletic department,” and “committing a 2nd NCAA violation during her 18 months of employment.” 

Austen Harris, one of the plaintiffs and a senior integrated studies major from Phoenix, said a lawsuit has been the plan for nearly a year. Former player Nanea Woods is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. 

According to a complaint filed April 15 in the district court, Turner allegedly violated NCAA regulations by forcing the players to take 500 shots each day in addition to their regular training and conditioning. The complaint details Turner’s discriminatory treatment of the African-American players who were on the team by frequently referring to them as the “Sistas.”

Turner participated in religious discrimination by requiring Woods and Harris to pray before each game, and the players were instructed by Turner to say “hallelujah” and “amen” during team meetings, the complaint said.

The document details Turner’s “fixation” on sexual orientation, and she accused Harris and Woods of dating each other, according to the report.  

Harris said she and her parents sought legal action after Turner was not terminated after some team members expressed their concerns multiple times to the DSU athletic department and administration.

“Boothe knew about it and didn’t do anything,” she said. “We approached him earlier last year before everything got worse, and he just swept everything under the rug. As the athletic director, you should help the players. He listened, but he didn’t do anything about it.”

Boothe and other members of the athletic department declined to comment. 

“It’s almost like [the athletic department] didn’t want to fire [Turner] for the racial or sexual discrimination, and they needed something extra,” Harris said.

Harris said the lawsuit should take about another year to be finalized, depending on DSU’s response. Combined with taking 21 credits this semester, Harris said dealing with the lawsuit has been stressful, but she’s happy it’s moving forward.

“Me and [Woods] are doing it for the other girls,” she said. “I’ve lost a whole year of playing basketball … It’s just not fair, and I’m glad the girls this year didn’t have to deal with that, but last year it was hard for all of us.”