Former Niagara assistant coach files human rights complaint

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — An assistant women's basketball coach at Niagara University who resigned last week has filed a complaint against the private Catholic university saying she was discriminated against based on her race and sexual orientation.

In the complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights, Jamesia Smith, who is Black, said the university blamed her when she became the victim of months of harassment after reducing the playing time of a white player who Smith said had become complacent in her senior year.

The player’s parents sent racist text messages, accused her of favoring Black players and berated and intimidated her from the stands during games, according to the complaint, filed June 22. Smith, who is bisexual, also was falsely accused of having a sexual relationship with a player, a claim that was investigated and dismissed by the university with no input from Smith, the complaint said.

An attorney for the university, in a statement, called the complaint baseless and said the university would vigorously defend itself.

“Niagara University absolutely responds to every complaint brought forward, and offers support and resources to each complainant. The university is confident that its policies and procedures support its mission to protect the safety and well-being of each member of the campus community,” the statement from attorney Ginger Schrӧder said.

Smith said the alleged harassment began in December and continued through March, causing anxiety, panic attacks and depression. It was followed by a negative job evaluation in May in which Smith was told her relationships with players had ultimately led to the accusations of favoritism and racial bias.

The complaint seeks “appropriate remedies and damages.”