HBCU Student-Athletes Class Action Lawsuit Vs. NCAA Allowed To Go Forward

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A U.S. District Court Judge has handed HBCU student-athletes a small victory denying the NCAA’s motion to dismiss, in part ruling the claims by two former student-athletes can move forward.

The case, filed last year, claims the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program (APP), designed to improve student-athlete performance, is racially discriminatory and the NCAA knew it but enforced it anyway. The suit also alleges the APP undermined the HBCU mission to serve underserved Black communities.

According to HBCU Gameday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young denied the NCAA’s motion to dismiss, in part, allowing the suit brought by Troyce Manassa and Austin Dasent, who alleged unequal treatment and injuries caused by the NCAA’s intentionally-created unequal system.

The pair also alleges the APP system denies HBCU athletes privileges and benefits enjoyed by their peers at predominantly white colleges and universities including unequal access to scouting, career and other opportunities. Additionally, Manassa and Dasent claimed the APP system caused them emotional harm, humiliation, embarrassment and degradation.

The court further ruled that the pair’s claims should not be considered untimely because the plaintiff’s did not discover the discriminatory purpose of the APP until just before filing the suit.

“The NCAA knew that the APP would negatively affect Black student athletes at HBCUs,” Austin Dasent, plaintiff and a former member of the Savannah State University men’s basketball team said in the suit. “You can’t keep moving the goalposts and call it reform when, at the end of the day, Black student-athletes at HBCUs are not given the same tools and opportunities to succeed even before we hit the fields and courts.”

Judge Young did dismiss the plaintiff’s claims against the NCAA Board of Directors and the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors.

Manassa and Dasent are trying to turn their suit into a class action. If the case gets certified, it would represent the hundreds of HBCU athletes that have been negatively affected by the program.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic affecting all HBCU sports last year, several teams had successful seasons. The North Carolina A&T track teams won the NCAA men’s and women’s track and field national championships and sent nearly a dozen athletes to the summer Olympics. Sprinters Trevor Stewart and Randolph Ross Jr. became the first N.C. A&T athletes to win Olympic medals, bringing home two golds and a bronze.

Meanwhile Texas Southern and Norfolk State both made the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and won their First Four games. Texas Southern defeated Mount St. Mary’s and Norfolk State defeated Appalachian State University.

According to the Undefeated, the three schools gained nearly $1 billion in exposure due to what their athletes accomplished.