Two former Rutgers University basketball players and a former team manager who say they were forced to run sprints in the nude can sue their former coaches for violating their privacy, a New Jersey appeals court ruled.
The decision, issued earlier this month, overturned part of a lower court’s ruling that dismissed the suit from Earl Johnson Jr., Josh Sankes and manager Juan Carlos Pla.
The recent decision upheld a lower court’s dismissal of sexual harassment allegations against Rutgers University, its trustees and board of governors, university President Francis Lawrence, Athletic Director Robert Mulcahy and former Athletic Director Fred Gruninger.
The trio alleges that former coach Kevin Bannon and former assistant coach Tod Kowalczyk forced players to participate in a strip free-throw contest, where players lost an article of clothing for each shot missed. The players have said they thought the December 1997 drill would end with undershorts.
“A reasonable student athlete would find the required nudity of the strip free-throw contest and wind sprints, although brief in duration, was offensive and inappropriately invaded (the young men’s) right of privacy,” the appellate court panel wrote.
The men initially filed suit in 1999 and Superior Court Judge Nicholas Stroumtsos Jr. dismissed the suit the following year, citing the men had failed to offer proof of humiliation, harm or that they were the victims of sexual harassment.
Rutgers did not discipline Bannon over the incident, however, he was fired in March after four years with the university.
Bannon’s agent, Keith Glass, questioned the motivation for the suit.
“The guys who didn’t get to play and were bitching about it filed a suit two years later,” Glass told The Star-Ledger of Newark. “Ultimately, this will all come out for what it is, which is not much.”