Former Iowa football players amend discrimination lawsuit, add linebackers coach Seth Wallace

Seven former Iowa football players altered their discrimination lawsuit against the UI, also accusing head coach Kirk Ferentz of retaliation.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa helmets sit on the sidelines before a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 17 Indiana at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 34-6.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa linebackers coach Seth Wallace has been added as a defendant in a lawsuit brought on by seven former Hawkeye football players against the University of Iowa. The group alleges racial discrimination and harassment in the Iowa football program.

The final day for plaintiffs Akrum Wadley, Jonathan Parker, Marcel Joly, Aaron Mends, Darian Cooper, Brandon Simon, and Javon Foy to add defendants was April 8. The amended lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Des Moines, was submitted that day, as first reported by the Cedar Rapids Gazette. A jury trial is set for March 6, 2023. The lawsuit was first filed in November 2020.

The lawsuit alleges that head coach Kirk Ferentz, who is also a defendant in the lawsuit, “exacerbated racial disparities within the Program by hiring Wallace,” and that Wallace “discriminated against, bullied, demeaned, and harassed African American football athletes almost daily.”

Wallace started with the Iowa football program as a graduate assistant in 2006. He then returned to the program in 2014 as the linebackers coach.

Wallace, along with defendants Chris Doyle and Brian Ferentz, routinely used derogatory language and racial slurs toward African American players, the lawsuit alleges. The plaintiffs claim that they were treated like expendable second-class citizens in comparison to their white teammates. 

Brian Ferentz is currently Iowa’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Doyle was formerly Iowa’s strength and conditioning coach. He reached a separation agreement with the UI in June 2020 after players accused him of racism and mistreatment.

The lawsuit also imposed four additional counts of discimination and harassment, failure to provide equal rights and protection, failure to train and supervise staff, and retaliation on football coaches and UI administration.

Both Kirk Ferentz and Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, who was removed in May 2021 as a defendant in the lawsuit, failed to train and supervise staff, the lawsuit alleges. The UI has a policy against nepotism, so Kirk Ferentz cannot directly supervise his son, Brian Ferentz. Barta is Brian Ferentz’s direct supervisor. The lawsuit says Kirk Ferentz and Barta were aware of the “racially discriminatory and hostile culture and environment” but ignored complaints and did not rectify the behavior.

Parker, an African American athlete who joined the Iowa football program on a full scholarship in 2013, levied a retaliation complaint against Kirk Ferentz.

Parker was “weary from the harassment he and other African American players regularly faced” in the football program. Parker allegedly told a UI therapist about his concerns. The therapist then assured Parker that the therapy sessions were confidential, the lawsuit said. 

Kirk Ferentz, however, approached Parker soon after he started therapy sessions, the lawsuit said.

“K. Ferentz indicated to Jonathan that the therapist had told him about Jonathan’s ‘concerns with the Program,’” the lawsuit alleges. “Shaken, Jonathan replied that his therapy sessions were going well and that he was ‘all good.’ The conversation affirmed for Jonathan that nothing in the Program slipped past K. Ferentz, not even players’ ‘confidential’ therapy sessions. Unnerved, Jonathan never returned to the therapist.”

Brian Ferentz also yelled at Parker in a racially motivated manner in December 2016, the lawsuit alleges. Brian Ferentz allegedly told Parker in front of teammates, “Only a dumb ass Black player would do it like that!” while Kirk Ferentz allegedly watched from 30 yards away. 

Parker met with Kirk Ferentz to address Brian Ferentz’s comments, and “[d]espite acknowledging that he knew his son used ‘bad’ and ‘inappropriate’ language, K. Ferentz stood by his son’s ‘correction’ of Jonathan and advised Jonathan that he would not side with a player over a coach,” the lawsuit said. 

Ferentz allegedly questioned Parker’s commitment to the team, and that Parker should weigh his options regarding his future at Iowa, the lawsuit said. Parker transferred out of the Iowa program in January 2017.

The plaintiffs are seeking multiple actual and compensatory damages in the lawsuit, including:

  • Mandatory annual anti-racist training for all athletic department coaches, staff, and personnel administered by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi or a qualified person that is acceptable to athletes
  • Establishment of a board of advisors to monitor Iowa football program, consisting of African American student-athletes and experienced anti-racist professionals
  • Tuition waivers for African American athletes that competed for the Iowa football program under Kirk Ferentz’s tenure and did not earn a degree
  • Establishment of a Senior Black Male Administrator at the university with similar responsibilities as the Senior Women’s Administrator
  • Attorney fees and costs
  • Expert witnesses fees and costs
  • Ones that pertain to mental anguish, emotional distress, pecuniary loss, loss of reputation, and other economic damages