A former Ohio high school basketball player is suing his high school, the athletic director, the school’s principal, and his former basketball coach, alleging they violated his First Amendment right of free speech and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, resulting in a “loss of liberty” when he was cut from the team.
The suit was originally filed in Medina County Common Pleas Court [read the complaint here] by Chase Johanson, who graduated from the school in 2013 and is currently on the track team at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The case was transferred to the U.S. District Court Aug. 27 at the request of the defendants, who said the lawsuit belongs in federal court because the claims involve constitutional issues.
Johanson, who says in an online profile that he was a 6′ 7″ power forward for Medina High School and “my father played basketball at the University of Tennessee,” claims the problems at the school began in December of 2010 during his sophomore year when there was a conflict between a school-sponsored musical performance (in which Johanson participated) and a basketball game. “Following the code of conduct for the school, when such a conflict arises, there was an agreement that he could participate in the musical performance with no clarification of penalty,” the complaint explains.
But Johanson claims that he was forced to sit on the bench for half of the next basketball game as a result of his choosing to attend the musical performance, which ultimately led to two years of conflicts and meetings between Johanson, his mother, the athletic staff, and school administrators. Coaches claim that Johanson’s lackluster athletic performance and bad attitude didn’t warrant being rewarded with much playing time, while Johanson and his mother say that he was being unfairly targeted and punished by a coach who didn’t like him.