Kate Kendell

Victory! NCLR Wins Landmark Title IX Retaliation Lawsuit on Behalf of Former Head Basketball Coach

Filed By Kate Kendell | December 04, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: basketball, Lorri Sulpizio, san diego mesa college, sports, victory, women in sports

Whoever said "victory was sweet" may have been a sports figure, or perhaps a lawyer vindicating the rights of a sports figure--say, for example, a lawyer vindicating the rights of a lesbian basketball coach fired from her job when she advocated for her student-athletes and complained about gender inequities in violation of Title IX.

Whatever the origin of the phrase, trust me, today all of us here at NCLR are feeling the truth of it. Yesterday, after an excruciating month-long trial and after deliberating for almost three days, a jury in San Diego found that NCLR client Lorri Sulpizio had been the victim of retaliation in violation of Title IX and was entitled to damages. Title IX is a federal statute that prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance in the United States.

This is a huge victory--and boy is it sweet. We have been representing Lorri, who was the basketball coach at San Diego Mesa College--in the second largest community college district in California--since the summer of 2007. Lorri called NCLR soon after she was fired. Through the months of worry and, at times, despair, neither we, nor Lorri, ever gave up.

What happened to Lorri was wrong and we knew something had to be done. But we also knew that victory was far from assured. Despite the protections of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on gender in sports and which also prohibits retaliation against a coach or player who complains about discrimination, winning such cases is difficult and litigating such cases is time-consuming and expensive. But between our legal team here at NCLR, led by our Senior Staff Attorney Amy Todd-Gher and our co-counsel, Leslie Levy of Boxer & Gerson, LLP, and Mattheus E. Stephens of Stock Stephens, LLP, and your unstinting support, we did it.

This victory is of course a vindication for Lorri and her family. They have had to endure so much pain, humiliation, and fear. But they stood strong and their courage has been rewarded with a victory not just for them, but for every future player or coach fired for speaking up and for being out. Wins like this force other potential violators of the law to think twice and empower other coaches and players to stand up and be strong.

We are so proud of Lorri, of our co-counsel, of this brave jury and of our terrific team at NCLR--particularly Amy and Helen Carroll, our Sports Project Director. We won one for our side. And we will win again.

Go Team Go!

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Must concur, and BLAST.

Lynn Miller | December 4, 2009 7:30 PM

In addition to this victory, Lorri Sulpizio's complaint about gender inequity in the Mesa sports program was validated (a year ago) by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) as violation of Title IX.

Mesa agreed to work with the OCR to resolve its unfair treatment of female athletes.

Rick Elliott | December 5, 2009 1:12 AM

What does NCLR stand for? Alphabet soup helps when it's identified the first time it's used.

You beat me to it Rick. Since the writer was 'here at NCLR' I am sure they know, but I sure don't.

Lynn Miller | December 5, 2009 1:39 PM

Rick, you are right that unidentified abbreviations are confusing. In this case NCLR = National Center for Lesbian Rights.

I would like mention, though, that NCLR has been a highly effective organization and is well worth supporting. It may not be as large as the Human Rights Campaign or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, but I think NCLR is worth remembering at least as well as HRC or NGLTF.