Minority Officials Plan Lawsuit Against NSAA
The Nebraska Boys High School Basketball Tournament puts the best against the best, but what about those officiating? One group says the NSAA isn't picking the most qualified. Some minority officials say they're being discriminated against, and are never selected to work the state tournament.
Thirteen African-American basketball officials are filing a $25 million discrimination lawsuit against the Nebraska School Activities Association in U.S. Federal Court. They say the process with selecting referees to work the games on the biggest stage isn't fair, and it mainly affects African-Americans.
Chanell Hickey, a 12-year official who's never been to the state tourney, says the decisions are based on who Athletic Directors and committee members are familiar with instead of who is most qualified. He also says NSAA staff members and associates have made racially discriminatory comments against minority officials that have been documented.
"Their decisions are extremely, purposely racially driven. All we're asking for is a fair opportunity,” Hickey explained. "Take the best qualified, don't take somebody because they're on a football crew and we just want to fill a quota. Take somebody who deserves to go, who's worked hard, and stop making excuses."
Hickey says in 2012 and 2013, of the 72 officials selected for the state tourney, 12 were African-American, some were picked both years. He says that number was an increase from previous years, but still not enough. They took their complaint to the NSAA two years ago, but say not enough has been done.
NSAA Executive Director, Rhonda Blanford-Green told KMTV Action 3 News, “I do believe that there is a fair selection process in place for the selection of officials. My understanding is that eight minority officials were assigned to officiate at the boys and girls state tournaments this year. Seven other minority officials who had registered to officiate and who had officiated enough games to be eligible to officiate the tournaments were not selected because their officiating ratings were lower than other officials who were selected. I will not comment on the selection process further due to the threat of legal proceedings.”
The lawsuit is expected to be filed in federal court next week.