Three former high school football players have sued their school's head coach, saying they were kicked off the varsity team after standing up to the head coach's bullying. The three star players and former co-captains of the team also allege the school's principal told them that while bullying is prohibited in the classroom, it is permissible on the football field.
"The public policy point we're trying to make is that this conduct is as prohibited on the athletic field as it is in the classroom," the boys' attorney told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "This coach was over the top and played a significant role in harming these students and their future."
The rift allegedly erupted after Galena High School head coach Steve Struzyk confronted seniors Mateo Lemus, Jake Berger, and Bryan Madison about their use of Boost Elite, an over-the-counter testosterone-enhancing supplement not banned under Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association rules. According to the lawsuit, Struzyk remained angry at the players regarding the use of the supplement, verbally berated them, and removed them as co-captains:
"Struzyk placed a trash can in the middle of the room and with dramatic flourish ripped up the captain's papers for Lemus, Madison and Berger. Struzyk threw the ripped captain's papers in a trash can he had positioned nearby. Struzyk condemned Lemus, Madison and Berger as a disgrace and unsuitable to be captains."
The strife continued until Struzyk kicked Lemus off the team, and Berger and Madison were also dismissed when they lobbied for Lemus's return. When the boys and their parents turned to Galena High Principal Tom Brown, they were told abusive language commonly used by Struzyk and other coaches was just "football talk."
The boys' lawsuit claims otherwise, and that the coach's behavior and principal's lack of response violated school district policies and state law. Terri Keyser-Cooper, attorney for the former players, said "The public policy point we're trying to make is that this conduct is as prohibited on the athletic field as it is in the classroom. This coach was over the top and played a significant role in harming these students and their future."
All three were star players for the school and had scholarship aspirations, according to the suit. (Galena finished 2-7 last season and didn't win a game after the players were dismissed.) They are suing for compensatory damages for economic losses and pain and suffering, along with punitive damages and their legal fees.