Court Grants Summary Judgment in White Football Coach’s Title VII Case

Court Grants Summary Judgment in White Football Coach’s Title VII Case

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a short excerpt from a recent piece written by Rachel Silverman for Sports Litigation Alert. It was one of approximately ten articles and five case summaries that appear in each issue of the Alert.)

By Rachel Silverman, M.A.

Plaintiff Alan Rodemaker began his career at Valdosta High School in 2010 as an assistant football coach and gym teacher. In 2016, he became the head football coach. In that same year the football team won the Georgia State Championship for Division 6A for the first time in eighteen years. They reached the state championship quarterfinals for two of the next three years.

The Valdosta Board of Education renewed Rodemaker’s teaching and coaching contract for ten years. However, in January 2020, the school board voted 4-5 not to renew Rodemaker’s contract, despite the recommendation to renew by the superintendent. The five black members of the board were the ones who voted not to renew the contract. The board members did not explain their decision. Due to a public outcry, the contract was up for a vote again at the February 2020 meeting. The board again voted 4-5 not to renew the contract, and the decision remained divided along racial lines. The plaintiff alleges that the school board chose to end his employment based on racial prejudice because he is white and those that voted against his contract are black.

Rodemaker filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on April 24, 2020, and filed a second charge on July 15, 2020. On April 23, 2020, Rodemaker filed a lawsuit against Defendants Lee, Brown, Howard, Shumphard, and Brown, the five school board members who voted against renewing his contract. The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s original lawsuit, but the court denied the motion. On June 8, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the court’s decision, dismissed Rodemaker’s case, and granted the defendants’ motion for judgment on September 8, 2021. After Rodemaker’s lawsuit failed against the individual board members, he filed another lawsuit naming the school board and the five black members as agents of the school board. He alleged that the defendants violated Title VII by racially discriminating against him.

The plaintiff alleged that the school board wanted to fill the head coach position with a black man, but it was initially unable to do so. They extended an offer