UPDATE: MU responds to discrimination lawsuit by former track coach

Posted on 28 June 2018 at 11:06am
Story image: UPDATE: MU responds to discrimination lawsuit by former track coach

COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri sent a statement to KOMU 8 News on Friday in response to a lawsuit filed by a former Mizzou track coach.

Carjay Lyles filed the lawsuit on Wednesday, alleging racial discrimination while he was an employee.

The university released its response as follows:

"The University of Missouri does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment and actively seeks to build an inclusive culture in which all differences among us-whether they be racial, intellectual, physical or based on gender, religion, sexual preference, age, ability or geographic origin-are valued. It is our strong belief as a university that the diversity of our students, faculty and staff makes us stronger and contributes to the success of our entire community.
We deny that there was any racial discrimination or retaliation, and we will respond to Mr. Lyles’ claims in court."

Lyles worked for Mizzou from 2013 until 2017 as an assistant coach under head coach Brett Halter, one of two individuals named in the lawsuit. The other individual is Mitzi Clayton, who at the time was a manager with the track program.

In the lawsuit, Lyles said from the first day he started, Halter - who is white - referred to black athletes and staff as "you people." Lyles also accused the University of having a "deep-rooted history of treating black athletes and black staff members adversely because of their race."

According to the complaint, Lyles said he mentioned to Halter concerns he'd heard from high school coaches in Kansas City and St. Louis, including that black athletes were overlooked in favor of white athletes from outside the state and that black athletes had to pay for schooling, while scholarships went to less athletic white athletes.

Other allegations against Halter include his allegedly only inviting white staff to lunches and making racially insensitive comments.

Lyles said in the complaint he filed a case with the university's Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, and started seeing the team psychiatrist in early 2016. When Clayton heard about the psychiatrist appointments, she allegedly told the psychiatrist to stop meeting with Lyles.

The lawsuit then accuses a friend of Halter, identified as Disa Nichols, of threatening various athletes on the track team, saying if they didn't contact HR and "make false allegations to contradict the complaints [Lyles] made" they would have their immigration papers revoked.

Lyles said in August 2016, he was the only coach who didn't get a raise or contract extension, despite the success of the athletes he oversaw. He said he also overheard a conversation between Halter and Nichols, in which they allegedly discussed forcing him out of the program and disrupting potential his future employment.

The suit says Lyles was "constructively discharged" in July 2017.

Lyles currently works as a track coach at the University of Akron in Ohio.

According to Mizzou Athletics' website, Halter has been a track coach at the school for 25 years, and head coach for eight years. Clayton has been with Mizzou Athletics since 1990.

(Editor's note: this story has been updated to include a statement from the University of Missouri in response to the lawsuit)