Lawsuit Exposes Racism In College Women’s Basketball Team
Jasmine Orsted’s past coaches called her an “excellent athlete.” She proved that to be true during a year at Northern Virginia Community College where she played well. However, the next year she was cut from the women’s basketball team at the University of Mary Washington before the season started. Reportedly, it was because of a lack of “chemistry” between her and her teammates.
That’s at least what she was told. But Orsted tells a very different story that eventually led to a lawsuit and a settlement of $160,000, according to The Washington Post.
Orsted told The Post that the UMW women’s locker room was often the home of a casual racism that no one seemed to think was a problem. White players would openly comment on Black people’s names, associating them with “the ghetto.” She said they even mocked her when she told them she had a Black mother and a Norwegian father.
“ ‘So you have a white dad who married a black woman and they had a baby together?’ ” one player asked. “And they just all fell on the ground laughing. And I’m standing there like — this is 2014 at the time, that’s not something unheard of, I don’t understand how it could be funny.”
For a while, Orsted had hopes that the blatant racism would improve. When the head coach joined the team she hoped things would get more serious. Instead, her coach called her into the office for a shocking conversation. Fortunately, she recorded the comments at her mother’s suggestion.
“I don’t know if this is going to work, all right?” coach Deena Applebury said, according to a transcript used in court.
Orsted told Applebury that the tension between her and the other players was due to their racist remarks. Applebury said she would look into them. Then she added, “when you have, you know, a group versus one person, I kind of have to go to the group because it’s a team sport, for right, wrong, or otherwise.”
Orsted was later cut from the team during pre-season activities. The next year, she transferred to Bowie State University and filed suit against her former school.
Orsted looked through yearbooks to learn more about her former team. She found that only three Black players had made the team’s final roster in the past 14 years. This being further evidence of a clear race problem at UMW.
The men’s basketball head coach also testified that he warned Athletic Director Ken Tyler of these issues in 2013.
In response, Rod Wood, who had coached the men’s team for 18 years, was fired by Tyler two weeks after making his complaint.
The lawsuit Orsted filed with the help of Alexandria civil rights attorney Victor Glasberg resulted in a settlement. But UMW wasn’t forced to admit to any wrongdoing. Instead, the university will hire an outside professional to conduct annual sensitivity and inclusion training for the Athletic Department.
“I just want anybody else who goes though this to know that they have to believe in themselves and not let anybody make them think that they’re being too sensitive, that they’re the issue,” said Orsted. “Not let the bullies win.”
Orsted is still playing for Bowie State. She had the pleasure of facing many of her former UMW teammates during a summer game. By the end, her team was up by more than 20. Sadly, her opponents left the court without even shaking her hand.