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Two black basketball players are suing Dixie State University over allegations they faced racial discrimination from their black coach, who also allegedly questioned them repeatedly about their sexual orientation and required them to participate in religious activities.
Dixie State officials, including athletic director Jason Boothe, failed to act in a timely manner on complaints about the actions of women's basketball coach Catherria Turner and her father, Stevie Turner, who participated in coaching and other activities with the team, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. Nine players were kicked off the team or quit during the 2013-14 season.
"I'm so frustrated by the absence of action from the school," said former player Nanea Woods of Redwood City, Calif., who was dismissed by Turner during the season. She added: "I didn't feel like they were protecting the athletes at all. I know for a fact they knew about a lot of stuff that was going on."
A spokesperson for Dixie State, which is located in St. George, said Thursday that the school does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Woods, who played for Dixie in the 2012-13 season and part of the 2013-14 seasons, and Austen Harris of St. George, who played during the 2013-14 season.
It accuses Turner and her father of repeatedly violating Dixie and NCAA rules, including denying water to players during strenuous exercises and drills, which caused Woods to faint during one such session.
Turner, Dixie's first black coach, and her father treated nonblack players more favorably and held black players to higher standards, the lawsuit says.
Stevie Turner repeatedly referred to the black players by racial slurs such as "sistas" and told Harris' parents the black players didn't work as hard as the "white girls," the suit alleges.
Catherria Turner prohibited dating among members of the team, then accused Harris of breaking the rule and repeatedly questioned her about her sexual orientation, the lawsuit alleges. She also accused Harris and Woods of dating each other in front of the team.
"Not to say having a coach worry about your personal life is bad, because it's not bad at all," said Harris in an interview. "But being overly involved on a day-to-day basis, it was more than a coach should be involved."
Harris said she is stressed out now trying to graduate this year from Dixie State in order to preserve a last year of athletic eligibility.
Turner also required the players to participate in a team prayer and say "hallelujah" and "amen" at meetings and functions, the lawsuit says.
The school fired Turner in November of last year, saying that she withheld information from the athletic department and committed a second NCAA violation apparently after an earlier reprimand, according to the lawsuit.
It asks for damages that are to be determined by a jury.