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The Blue & Gray Press | June 27, 2017

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Review of court records reveals disheartening actions taken by leaders in athletic department

Review of court records reveals disheartening actions taken by leaders in athletic department

By ESTER SALGUERO

In March, Juliette Landphair, Vice President for Student Affairs, sent out a statement on behalf of the university and its staff announcing that the University of Mary Washington settled a lawsuit with Jasmine Orsted. A former student, who said that she felt racially discriminated against after being cut from the women’s basketball team before her tryout date.

As it is stated in the email, “without admission of liability or wrongdoing by the University, its coaches or employees, the University has agreed to pay [Orsted] $160,000 in full settlement of her remaining claims.” The statement said that the university and its staff members are not culpable or legally responsible for what happened to Orsted.

But a review of court records, publicly accessed through Richmond’s Eastern District Court, revealed that the women’s basketball coach Deena Applebury misstated some details when speaking with UMW investigators about her reasoning for dismissing Orsted. Kenneth Tyler, director of athletics, was present during the interview and had knowledge of inconsistencies in Applebury’s retelling of events. The court records do not explicitly state that any of the false impressions were intentional.*

Orsted approached the school in August of 2014 about playing on the women’s basketball team. Applebury watched a video of Orsted playing on the Internet. She agreed to allow Orsted to begin practicing with the recruited players. Orsted was hopeful of securing a spot on the team and registered for an athletic course, which was to be held in the spring of 2015.*

During the fall semester of 2014, two separate complaints of racially charged remarks among members of the UMW women’s basketball team were reported by Caitlyn Riley and Jasmine Orsted, who were both trying out during the same season.

Their complaints were jointly investigated at that time by Sabrina Johnson, the associate Vice President of Human Resources and Leah Cox, Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion. In the interview, Applebury said that she filed the complaints on Oct. 8, six days earlier than the documented and reported information by human resources, according to Johnson’s testimony.

On Oct. 2, Applebury called Orsted and asked her to come to her office. This was the day that Orsted was cut from the team before her tryout date, which was agreed to be on Oct. 15. Orsted’s mother drove her to this meeting and advised her daughter to record the conversation.

She kept a journal of the comments made by teammates and covertly recorded conversations between her and Applebury. Orsted asked Applebury to address her concerns and the racially charged comments that the team members were laughing about.

According to a Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, no immediate action was taken after Orsted reported her complaints to Applebury. UMW policies require administrators and university personnel to act promptly after receiving any complaints of racial discrimination. According to the memorandum, Tyler did nothing for six days until Vice President Douglas Searcey contacted him about the complaints. However, the university’s own pleadings show that Applebury immediately reported the information to her supervisor Ken Tyler and additionally conducted her own investigation by interviewing the other black students on the team.*

Orsted filed her lawsuit on Sep. 2, 2015. Prior to this date, Applebury was confronted by UMW investigators about why she decided to cut Orsted before her tryout date. Vice President Searcey told investigators that he was well aware how Orsted was “denied a chance to tryout,” according to the court records.

Applebury told UMW investigators that she cut Orsted from the team because it did not look like she had good chemistry with her teammates.

Edward Hegmann, a former UMW athletics director from 1976 to 2012, said in his testimony that, “it is the very role of a coach to help players develop the chemistry the coach seeks,” rather than expecting members to instantly make connections with teammates. Pre-season activities are also optional and anyone can participate in them, according to the syllabus.

Hegmann also said in response to Orsted’s early cut that “it is unheard of for a prospective student athlete to be barred from tryouts on the basis of an alleged failure to bond with team members.”

When dismissing Orsted from the team, Applebury told her, “I have to go with the group because it’s a team sport, for right, for wrong or otherwise,” which Orsted gave as evidence from her recordings. The day that Orsted was dropped from the team she was also taken off the Group-Me chat by an unknown individual.

Later in the legal battle, Applebury switched her reasoning for cutting Orsted from not ‘fitting-in’ with the other members to saying that there just weren’t enough spots on the roster and that Orsted “did not have the skill level or capability needed to play for the UMW women’s basketball team.”

She made these decisions without having watched Orsted play live and only having seen a few minutes of a video of Orsted playing for NOVA, which the assistant coach found on the internet.

According to Tyler, “any good coach would tell you [that coaches] differentiate between video and live [since] effort, interaction with teammates [and] interaction with coaches is not able to be seen on film but it is able to be observed if you’re there live,” according to the court files.

However, Applebury’s testimony about not having enough room on the roster was false. According to court records, Applebury sent Tyler a list of the rostered players which included Orsted’s name shortly before she decided to cut her from the team. In the joint interview, Tyler said nothing while Applebury misrepresented documented information.

On Oct. 9, Tyler met with Orsted’s parents. He discussed the reasons behind Applebury’s decision and denied Orsted’s claims about team members making racially charged comments.

Tyler said towards the end of the meeting, “You can have a tryout if that will make you happy.”

This upset Orsted’s parents and they told Tyler that they wanted to meet with Applebury to discuss what had been occurring and to hear from her that Orsted would be given a fair tryout. However, Tyler did not accept their request and said that Orsted would be able to tryout only on the established date.

After Orsted was given the opportunity to tryout again, she was worried that she did not have enough time to prepare for the date, since she had been dropped from the Group-Me chat and did not know when the drilling, scrimmaging or practices were being held.

The court records gave evidence of the types of comments which were made by the teammates. Some of those comments, noted of in the files, involved teammates talking about how they wouldn’t want to live in the ghetto or go to a black church, how one player went to Haiti and took a picture with a “little skinny, hungry black boy,” and saying that black people never shave because they’re so dark. The last comment was said in response to someone stating that they felt gross for not shaving.

According to the evidence disclosed in the summary of judgment, throughout the 14 years of Applebury’s tenure there have only been three black women on the basketball team in contrast to the men’s team being one-third black. This information was listed as evidence as it is striking that at a university comprised primarily of women, the men’s basketball team has a higher ratio of black to white players.

Riley, also a former student who tried out with Orsted, reported complaints about “racist talk, hostile and insensitive racial attitudes on the women’s basketball team,” and was cut from the team before tryouts and felt that she had been dropped from the team suddenly without explanation, according to the summary of judgment.

Tyler was aware of the two similar complaints made by students involved with the women’s basketball team but did nothing to address it, according the Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.*

In the court files, it states that he didn’t think Riley’s input would have been useful in investigating Orsted’s complaint. He had considered sending team members to diversity and inclusiveness counseling and later did so for the first time in his career.

During the process of reporting, Johnson, Applebury and Tyler were each contacted through email for comment on April 11. Anna Billingsley, Associate Vice President of University Relations, responded on behalf of each person with the statement written by Juliette Landphair that was mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Court records show that the university agreed to make future student athletes aware of “potential school credit ramifications of not making a team,” to revise the tryout policy, and that the payment would be made shortly after the settlement became official.  

The settlement agreement was made by both parties to reduce any further costs that would be made if the case were to continue. In addition to both parties’ mutual agreement, the university also agreed to incorporate sensitivity training into the athletics department.

On April 24, 2017, the Washington Post came out with an article addressing this settlement, focusing on interviews with Orsted that shine light on the uncertainties felt by many black students, in regard to how to deal with racism on campus. 

However, doubts of racism become validated through cases such as her own, where the disheartening behaviors of others are exposed and talked about in public. Orsted said, in the article, that for her it was important to press on with her concerns and that she could not have done it without the support of her mother.

President Troy Paino read the Washington Post article and wrote a statement to the UMW community. He said, “In my ten months here at Mary Washington, I have come to know the individuals who make up this community… they are persons of character and commitment – and they do not condone discrimination of any kind.”

*Editor’s Note: This article was corrected to more accurately state how Orsted became involved with the basketball team and which students went to the athletics department to complain about racist remarks by teammates. A previous version of this article misstated some of this information. Some clarifications were also made to the language, and additional attribution was provided for some statements.

The staff of The Blue & Gray would also like to clarify that the court records used were mainly from the plaintiff’s pleadings. A small portion of the university’s pleadings were added after publication.

Comments

  1. Carla

    How preposterous!! Just makes my blood boil!! The administration of this school is just as guilty for continuing to employ the athletic director and this coach. How will racism be removed from the trenches if messages are not sent? Applebury shouldn’t be coaching anybody’s kids. Too many colleges seem to always treat systemic issues as a damn public relations issue instead of a human rights issue. The other black students on that team are going along to get along. They need to learn about having character and integrity instead of shucking and jiving with racist co-horts just to remain on the team. Tyler and Applebury tried to CYA after the fact. I will get the name of this school out so others can steer clear. I’ve heard way too many stories about all white university/community college campuses that are filled with racist staff, environments and have no desire for change in the 21st century!!!! High school seniors of color and others with a passion for diversity & fairness need to apply elsewhere. Not where they’re not wanted.

  2. SHAY

    My daughter was being heavily recruited by UMW last year. She even verbally committed. However, other doors opened for her and she decommitted. Looks like we dodged a bullet. Thank God!

  3. Anonymous

    This is so shameful! The response from the administration is weak and seems that UMW does not take racism seriously. Dr. Paino has been doing photo-ops with minority groups such as the LGBTQ community. Perhaps he should focus more on a larger community, POC.

  4. Anonymous

    The Blue&Gray press has continuously posted false information about this story. They have been forced to redact their story twice and for this to come out is absolutely disgusting. What is not mentioned in court is this players lack of ability on the basketball court as well as her inability to meet the standard conditioning that every player is expected to meet. This is not Jasmin’s first court case involving “racial discrimination” and I am sure this will not be her last. Read the court case before you pass judgment on what did or did not occur. I am very disappointed in the Blue&Gray’s lack of fact checking and cross examining the information they received.

  5. Unfortunately, the Anonymous comment regarding the Blue & Gray’s “false information” fails to realize that the information provided in the court documents clearly show discrimination on the part of the Coach and a failure of the university to properly address that matter.

    If this story was false in nature, UMW was very quick to settle this case with Ms. Orsted. At the end of day, this is a poor reflection on UMW as an institution as well as it’s athletic department and in particular it’s women’s basketball team.

  6. Anonymous

    Ken Tyler should had never been employed. I have had numerous horrible encounters by him since 2013. For those of you who discredit this article, you will never know how it feels like being a college athlete as a minority.

  7. This is exactly How UMW plays roulette with Minorities & the LGBTQ community

    President Troy Paino says “In my ten months here at Mary Washington, I have come to know the individuals who make up this community… they are persons of character and commitment – and they do not condone discrimination of any kind.”

    Bsically saying Orsted is a Liar & There is No racism being perpetuated at UMW

    Rate DEENA APPLEBURY now & help other parents escape this horrible spineless person.

    http://www.ratemyteachers.com/deena-applebury/3060679-t

  8. Anonymous

    Also agree …Ken Tyler is in denial. It’s not just minorities. Fall out of favor from one of his coaches and watch the passive aggressive tactics and emotional attack culture kick in. Watch him turn away when major turn over occurs thru transfers, walk offs and forced outs…plague a team. This is only one of many that don’t even show up on the radar. Certain teflon coaches understand that and behave accordingly with immunity. Thank God the academic program is first rate for student athletes. They step up.

  9. Jake Varsbad

    Scumbag coach, scumbag Athletic Director, scumbag University President.
    For those of you on the opposite side, realize that coach Appleseed or whatever her name is, was caught on tape. The school would most likely never have settled if not for that key piece of evidence.
    So remember, always secretly have an audio or video recorder on when dealing with such amoral lowlifes to further substantiate your claims.

  10. Anonymous

    Unfortunately … some of your comments on this claim are with no truth. To destroy the legacy of a great coach is very painful and very hurtful with the claim of racism… further from the truth. I have known this coach for many years and watch her coach girls for over several years… never once would I label her as racist. Sometimes people make mistakes but not every mistake has to be label with racist. People mis-understand a word or two does not mean that the person is a racist. We know that taking words out of content could be dangerous and devastating if people use them in a certain content that is not explained properly. Young people can easely take the intent of the word or action without fully understanding how it is being used. Please, Im the first to condone any piece of racism any way shape of form. First we have to know both side of the story before we place judgement on a person that is being charged and ruien a coach life work of such charge. The way this claim is being publish is not factual interpretations. Racism can stir up sensitivity and emotional feeling quickly but it does not confirm a claim to be true or real. When we are mad, we hear what we want to hear.. Before making all of the negitive remarks, we need to learn more about the background of both parties or wait for both side to be heard before you take a great career of this coach and family through the ringer. In no way I excuse racism. Racism is bad at the core… but to see a innocent person come under such a claim is not right if its not true. No one should have the luxury damaging the life off of interpretation contexts to be what they want it to be… Find out the true behaviors of one who’s is making this racist. The side you don’t get to read… You may see this claim a little differently… if you do. God sees all and know all….

  11. Anonymous

    The buck stops at the ADs door step to oversee these “mistakes” and establish a culture of student athlete respect, inclusion and fairness. It’s more wide spread than that. Another sport coaches under this AD just this year displayed unacceptable “mistakes” behaviors that are on the very frindges questionable bias and/or near violations. You cannot spin all of these events to favor coaching with golden parachutes. Athletes are left with tough decisions as well to escalate, suck it up or fade away.

  12. Anonymous

    Totally agree, if anyone should be held accountable.. It should be the AD… He oversee and implement procedures and policies on the dos and cannot do…

  13. Anonymous

    This coach has let many girls go without try outs and they were white students as with …other black students…they didn’t claim racist…. No one knows the percentage of black players recruitment in the past years…some black players just didn’t accept because they didn’t want to attend a predominantly white college… In any case some basketball teams make cuts early and the coach has the right to do so unless it is written in their process and policies.
    The coach has that call if she or he don’t see the effort or potential of a player…especially when player don’t want to follow the team agenda or rules. Sometimes players come on a team and they feel they don’t have to follow the rule. Well that’s what team building is all about. That’s what character building is all about. If you can’t follow the rule, how can you listen to the coach instructions, team captains. Chemistry does make a big different in team sport and the success of a team sports . It has nothing to do with racist. Chemistry is not a racist word…. Some girls in their immaturity can mis represent the team however the coach not being in their presence at the time don’t know what was really said. Just because someone document a “they said” doesn’t mean it was said that way to offend anyone…some conversations is to learn of each other culture, backgrounds, experiences, faith and beliefs. That’s
    how we grow up… Let’s not get so uptight that we can’t joke about life….it’s is life!

  14. Anonymous

    Dig deeper B&G. The very culture itself is in question here, not just a racism event. For every well publicized event, such as this one, there are young athletes who gave up their social lives to compete at this level only to run into this athletic program spin. Year to year undergrad roster changes are subtle and often unoticed … certainly not investigated by this AD for root cause. Kudos to a tough job college president trying to invoke change but sometimes cleaning house serves as a message and cataylst for much needed change.

  15. E A Miranti

    That the coach has denied many other students try-outs makes me wonder how many other ways she is discriminating. Try-outs are objective, and ought to be allowed by everyone. The coach has been creating basketball teams by who fits the social mold instead of picking the best players. No wonder the woman who won the lawsuit beat her old teammates so soundly when they played against each other in the summer league!

  16. Snowflake Detector

    So a player got cut and heard some jokes she didn’t like then sued the university? Looks like all of the symptoms of a classic case of Feminism is Cancer. No idea why the university gave the snowflake 160k instead of telling her to seek treatment for virulent case of feminism. This is why the “university” has become a laughing stock.

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