AMES, Iowa — Nikki Moody, the former Iowa State women’s basketball player, is suing head coach Bill Fennelly, the university and the state for racial discrimination.
The lawsuit lists over 20 grievances — some involving Fennelly and others involving his staff — alleging eighter degrading comments or treatment different than white teammates.
According to the lawsuit filed Friday in state district court, Fennelly allegedly harassed and discriminated against the former star player. Moody, who is African American, said the discrimination caused a “hostile” environment because of “racial harassment.” She is seeking unspecified damages.
“I think it was discouraging to think that there’s a group of black women or minorities who are being treated in such a way by someone in such a position of power, and I think my first reaction was that, ‘We’ve got to fix this and make it right and ensure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else,’” said attorney Brooke Timmer, who filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Fennelly called Moody a “thug.” He told her that everyone told him not to recruit her because of her background. He said that he should have listened to them.
The suit goes on to allege that misconduct extended to the rest of the coaching staff and that one of Fennelly’s assistant coaches said “this is the first and last time we will have this many black people on the team.”
Allegedly during Moody’s senior year, there were three seniors on the team, all of whom were black, Fennelly told the freshman class that Moody and the other seniors were bad influences and to “stay away from them.”
But despite the alleged discrimination, Moody continued to play for her coach instead of trying to transfer, a decision her lawyer says is a reflection of her character.
“She committed to Iowa State, and she was committed to them and to the team and to making her dream happen of being in the WNBA, which did happen briefly. She stuck it out because she’s not a quitter,” said Timmer.
Moody continues the allegations, saying during her freshman year, Fennelly demeaned Chassidy Cole, the only black upperclassman on the team. He allegedly said things like, “Chassidy will end up in prison, just like her mother.” And that Chassidy is a “thug.”
That accusation doesn’t sit well with Black Student Alliance President Markus Flynn, who said the word “thug” is racially motivated.
“Essentially, ‘thug’ itself has become somewhat of a racial epithet. It’s the politically correct way of saying the ‘N-word’ now. I guess you could say the nominally polite way of saying it,” Flynn said. “It’s clearly a negative word and it’s not a word that you want to have associated with you.”
Timmer referenced Moody’s brief WNBA career with the San Antonio Stars.
The lawsuit says that Fennelly and the coach of the Stars were friends, and a month after filing a complaint with the Iowa State University Office of Equal Opportunity against her former coach, the Stars cut Moody.