Head football coach sued in Title IX lawsuit
April 10, 2020
Head Football Coach B.J. Hammer has been named as a defendant in a federal sexual harrassment lawsuit filed by a former player at Allegheny College alleging that the school ignored reports of sexual misconduct and discrimination.
The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on February 5.
The filing alleges that Samantha Simonetta, a female kicker for Allegheny, reported multiple instances of sexual assault and harassment by fellow players to Hammer’s staff during the 2018 off-season. According to court documents filed by Simonetta’s attorney Kristen Weidus, Hammer’s staff violated Title IX regulations by failing to report the complaints to school authorities and subsequently attempting to force her off the team.
Hammer served as the head coach at Allegheny from January 2016 until December 2019, when he was hired by Bowdoin.
In a written statement to the Orient, Hammer indicated that he and Allegheny intend to fight the case.
“I have been working with Allegheny College and its counsel and they intend to vigorously defend the case,” wrote Hammer.
Simonetta became the first woman on the Allegheny football team when she joined as a prospective kicker in the winter of 2018. According to the court documents, Simmonetta immediately began experiencing harassment from her male teammates, who “inappropriately leer[ed] at her buttocks” and told her that they wanted to “fuck her silly.” Teammates also allegedly made unwanted sexual advances on Simonetta during off-season practices, including putting their arms around her and “telling her she was beautiful.”
In February of 2018, Simonnetta reported the misconduct to one of Hammer’s assistant coaches, Curtis Bailey, who told her that he would report her complaints to Hammer. Bailey later admitted that he had never done so.
The lawsuit alleges that Hammer’s staff responded to Simonetta’s reports by attempting to force her off the team by placing her on academic probation, despite the fact that her grades were above the specified threshold, by failing to include her in team correspondences and by excluding her from team activities.
“It became clear to Ms. Simonetta that the football coaching staff had deliberately elected not to proceed with an investigation, opting instead to ‘resolve’ the issue by forcing her off the football team,” Weidus wrote in the court documents.
According to the complaint, Simonetta continued to experience harassment even after she left the team in August of 2018, including having a teammate attempt to kiss her without her consent and pull her into his dormitory room.
Simonetta later reported the attempted assault directly to Allegheny’s Title IX office, which found that the the accused student had violated the school’s gender discrimination and sexual harrassment policies.
The 15-page lawsuit alleges that Allegheny violated Title IX regulation and accuses Hammer, Allegheny’s director of athletics, two of Hammer’s assistant coaches and another Alleghany staff member of negligence, tortious interference with contractual relations and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The filing is requesting unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for Simonetta.
A court date has yet to be set for the case, pending a response from the defendants’ lawyers.
Bowdoin’s Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan declined to comment on the lawsuit, other than to say that the College was aware of the proceedings. Ryan declined to specify whether Hammer would face disciplinary action from the College if found liable.
Bowdoin’s Freedom from Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct & Gender Based Violence Policy states that “[a]ll employees are expected to respect the rights of their coworkers and conduct themselves in a way that supports the inclusion of students and employees of all different backgrounds. Employees who engage in unlawful harassment, sexual misconduct or gender based violence or discrimination will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including immediate termination of employment.”
The policy does not apply to conduct performed by an individual before they became an employee of the College.
Players from the football team and members of the Bowdoin Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (BSAAC) did not respond to requests for comment.
Andrew Bastone contributed to this report.
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Bowdoin should release a public statement regarding their understanding and stance on this issue