Attorney for 8 Black former Iowa football players: Demands are not a 'money grab'

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

A civil-rights attorney representing eight Black former Iowa football players released an 800-word statement Monday night, saying his clients were more determined than ever to stand strong in light of the University of Iowa rejecting their demands for $20 million and the firings of head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and athletics director Gary Barta.

A 21-page letter sent to the UI on Oct. 5 and obtained by the Des Moines Register was published Sunday. The letter, which came from Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, outlined years of intentional racial discrimination within Iowa football and a path for his clients to follow through with a lawsuit if the UI’s response didn’t meet their satisfaction.

Akrum Wadley, one of eight former Hawkeye players who have hired Tulsa-based attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, waves to the Iowa crowd after a 2017 win against Minnesota.

“It appears Iowa released our confidential letter to the media with the sole intention of trying to shame and intimidate our courageous clients,” Solomon-Simmons said in the statement sent to the Register. “It did not work. In fact, Iowa’s move has ... only strengthened the resolve of our clients to continue to stand up for their rights and the rights of their teammates.

“Our clients appreciate Iowa making it clear to all Black student-athletes, former, present, and prospective, that under the current leadership at Iowa, anti-Black racism is acceptable.”

More:Eight former University of Iowa football players seek $20 million, Kirk Ferentz's firing over racial discrimination

Solomon-Simmons is representing former Iowa players Maurice Fleming, Andre Harris, Marcel Joly, Kevonte Martin-Manley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker, Reggie Spearman and Akrum Wadley. All eight Hawkeyes played between the years of 2010 and 2018.

In his statement, Solomon-Simmons brings up Iowa’s $1.1 million separation agreement with strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle that was announced June 15.

“Iowa’s message in light of its refusal to compensate our clients is resoundingly clear: Iowa is more than willing to pay known multi-millionaire racist coaches," Solomon-Simmons said, "but paying Black victims of racism themselves is simply a bridge too far.

“Our monetary demand for our clients and the over 100 other impacted African-American athletes may be shortsightedly characterized as a money grab by some. But our demand is just, because the need for vindication and accountability is just. The need for meaningful change, and not mere administrative shuffles of Black employees for the sake of public relations, is just.”

The statement doesn't explicitly say that the former players will move to a lawsuit.

But it said, "We look forward to vindicating our clients’ rights and holding all wrongdoers accountable in court."

Tulsa civil-rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons.

A UI spokesperson told the Register on Monday night that the school was comfortable standing by its previous comments.

In a statement provided to the Register on Sunday, UI president Bruce Harreld expressed support for the eight former student-athletes but declined their financial and personnel demands.

"We are proud of the efforts made to date," Harreld said. "We have a path forward that includes ideas and recommendations from many current and former students aimed at making the University of Iowa a more inclusive and better place to learn, grow and compete as an athlete. However, the university rejects the demands for money and personnel changes."

Here is the full statement from Solomon-Simmons: