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Student Sues After Coach Cut Him for Wearing Pink Cleats

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By Jason Beahm on November 12, 2010 6:08 AM

"If you ooze masculinity, like some of us do, you have no reason to fear pink." - Jude Law, Alfie (2004)

I'm guessing the coach Chris Peterson of Mendenhall High School's football team doesn't subscribe to that maxim. The Mississippi coach allegedly kicked kicker Coy Sheppard off the team for wearing pink cleats during October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Sheppard, 17, decided to take things up a notch, hiring former state Supreme Court justice Oliver Diaz and filing suit in Simpson County Chancery Court. Sheppard is seeking reinstatement to the football team and monetary damages to go to the American Cancer Society.

But district deputy superintendent Tom Duncan backed up the coach. He said that the problem was not Coy Sheppard's shoes but that of insubordination; Sheppard ignored the orders of his coach. According to Sheppard, the shoes were a gift from his great-grandmother and he chose to wear them in honor of his mother, grandmother and step-grandmother, who are cancer survivors.

State high school coaches generally have wide latitude to make decisions regarding players on the team. However, as state employees they cannot kick a player off of the team for a protected discriminatory reason, such as for their ethnicity. Wearing pink cleats is not a protected class.

"I wish it could have been handled differently, where there could have been some compromise," School board President Larry Cockrell said. "I think all the kid wants is to play football and finish out the year."

The school district has until December 4 to answer the complaint. However the season could end at any moment. Mendenhall faces Purvis High School on Friday in the second round of the playoffs.

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