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Florida Gators to settle racial discrimination lawsuit with former football staffer

The former support staffer had accused the Gators of creating a “hostile, abusive, and racist work environment.”
The Florida Gators have settled a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by a former football support staffer.
The Florida Gators have settled a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by a former football support staffer. [ Times ]
Published Dec. 23, 2021

The Florida Gators have reached a settlement with a former football staffer who accused the athletic department of discriminating against him because he is Black. The two sides told the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida about the settlement in a filing last week.

The former staffer, Otis Yelverton, sued the University Athletic Association a year ago. In his original complaint, he alleged he was underpaid compared to white people who previously held his role as ex-assistant athletic director of player personnel and that he was passed over for promotions because of his race. A federal judge dismissed part of that claim because Yelverton’s complaint was not filed in a timely manner.

Yelverton also alleged that the Gators, including athletic director Scott Stricklin and then-coach Dan Mullen, “intentionally” subjected Yelverton “to unequal, discriminatory, and racist treatment by creating a hostile, abusive, and racist work environment.”

Yelverton’s complaint said Stricklin referred to him as “Otis, my man” — a reference to the movie Animal House but something Yelverton considered racially insensitive. The complaint also said Mullen shortened one staff member’s well-known nickname from the “Gorilla of Recruiting” to simply “Gorilla.” UF countered in a court filing that even if those comments were harassment, they were not enough to support a claim of a hostile work environment.

Yelverton also argued that race was a determining factor in his dismissal. He was fired in the spring of 2019 as he faced a felony complaint of aggravated stalking. The State Attorney’s Office later dropped the case due to insufficient evidence.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court records. The finalized documents are expected to be submitted to the court within a few weeks.

A trial had been scheduled for July.

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