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E-FILED 2016 APR 15 1:10 PM POLK - CLERK OF DISTRICT COURT

IN THE IOWA DISTRICT COURT FOR POLK COUNTY


NICHOLE MOODY,

Case No. ________________

Plaintiff,
vs.

PETITION
and
JURY DEMAND

STATE OF IOWA, IOWA STATE


UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY, and WILLIAM
FENNELLY,
Defendants.

COMES NOW the Plaintiff, Nichole Moody, and for her cause of action hereby states as
follows:
INTRODUCTION
1.

This is an action under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, challenging Defendants race

discrimination and retaliation against Plaintiff.


2.

Plaintiff Nichole Moody is a resident of Tarrant County, Texas.

3.

Defendant Iowa State University of Science and Technology (the University) is a

fully accredited four-year state university established pursuant to Chapter 260C of the Iowa Code,
governed by the state board of regents, doing business in Story and Polk Counties in Iowa.
4.

Defendant State of Iowa, a sovereign state as defined in the Iowa Code, has its

principal place of business in Polk County, Iowa.


5.

Defendant William Fennelly is a resident of Story County, Iowa.

6.

The acts of which Plaintiff complains occurred in Story County, Iowa.

Petition and Jury Demand

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PROCEDURAL REQUIREMENTS
7.

On approximately May 15, 2015, within 300 days of the acts of which she complains,

Plaintiff filed charges of education discrimination against Defendants with the Iowa Civil Rights
Commission.
8.

On approximately January 21, 2016, less than 90 days prior to the filing of this

Petition, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission issued an Administrative Release with respect to
Plaintiffs charges.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND
9.

Defendant William Fennelly has been the head coach of the Iowa State University

Womens Basketball team since 1995.


10.

Plaintiff Nichole Moody is a black female, protected from discriminatory practices by

the Iowa Civil Rights Act.


11.

Nichole graduated from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas in 2011. She was a

three-time all-district selection, Texas Basketball Magazine All-State selection, 2011 McDonalds AllAmerican game nominee, and a top 100 recruit.
12.

The University hosts an annual Elite Camp designed for elite high school players

who have achieved All-Conference, All-Area, or All-State honors. Nichole attended the Universitys
2010 Elite Camp and stood out as a skilled and promising player.
13.

The first time that Nichole spoke to Defendant Fennelly was on the last day of the

2010 Elite Camp. Fennelly told Nichole that his coaching staff discussed the camp participants and
had decided Nichole would be great for the Universitys Womens Basketball team.
14.

Fennelly offered Nichole a full-ride athletic scholarship. Nichole committed to the

University, and accepted the full-ride scholarship, about a month later.

Petition and Jury Demand

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15.

At the time that Nichole committed, there was only one black player on Fennellys

16.

Nichole arrived on campus in June 2011.

17.

Defendants treated Nichole and other black womens basketball players differently

roster.

than they treated white womens basketball players.


18.

While preparing for her first academic year, Nichole told Academic Advisor Jeff

Sessler that she wanted to be a veterinarian, and that she wanted to pursue a pre-veterinary
curriculum at the University.
19.

Sessler told Nichole that he would have to check with Fennelly about her request.

20.

Sessler denied Nicholes request and explained that it would be too difficult to

manage a pre-veterinary program and basketball. He gave her a limited list of different majors that
she could choose from. Sessler told Nichole that most of our athletes do communications.
21.

Sessler made it clear to Nichole that the Athletics Department only wanted athletes

to pursue majors that could be manipulated by athletics staff.


22.

Fennelly and his coaching staff immediately discouraged the black athletes from

spending time together.


23.

Throughout Nicholes enrollment at the University, Fennelly called her names,

criticized her, made negative comments about her and her family, and alienated her from fans,
teammates, staff, and her own parents.
24.

Early in her freshman year, Nichole was assaulted while visiting a bar near campus.

Nichole was called before a University dean and made to answer for her involvement in the
altercation. The dean declined to impose any discipline against Nichole when it was discovered that
she was not the aggressor.

Petition and Jury Demand

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25.

Even though Nichole was not the aggressor, Fennelly summoned her to a meeting in

his office.
26.

Fennelly called Nichole a thug. He told her that everyone told him not to

recruit her because of her background. He said that he should have listened to them.
27.

During practice later the same season, Fennelly loudly referred to Nichole as a

thug in front of her teammates.


28.

Fennelly called Nichole a thug many more times during her enrollment at the

University.
29.

Nichole injured her hand during a practice in the fall of her freshman year. She told

an assistant coach that she could not shoot because of the injury. When Fennelly heard Nichole
could not shoot, he became irate at Nichole and yelled at her, screaming that she was failing
anyways. He then kicked her out of practice.
30.

During an early morning practice, two white athletes were leading two black athletes

in drills. Fennelly was not happy with their performance, but instead of reprimanding the white
players, Chelsea Poppens and Hallie Christofferson, who were supposed to be leading the drill, he
verbally berated black athletes Kileah Mays and Fallon Ellis.
31.

During Nicholes freshman year, Fennelly repeatedly demeaned Chassidy Cole, the

only black athlete on the team who was not a freshman, in front of her teammates, saying such
things as:
a. Chassidy will end up in prison, just like her mother;
b. Chassidy is a thug;
c. Chassidy is ungrateful for what Fennelly has done for her; and
d. The best thing to ever happen to Chassidy is Fennelly offering her a scholarship.

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32.

Fennelly continued to verbally abuse Nichole and the other black athletes

throughout the 2011-12 basketball season.


33.

In spite of the ongoing harassment and discrimination, Nichole played in all 31

games of her freshman season. She started 29 of 31 games and played more minutes than any other
freshman.
34.

After a game during Nicholes freshman season, Fennelly called the team ungrateful

bitches. The comment brought several white athletes to tears because they had not previously
heard such crass language from Fennelly. Unfortunately, the black athletes were already familiar
with his abuse.
35.

In the spring of 2012, Fennelly made the entire team run sprints except for white

athlete Chelsea Poppens. Fennelly yelled to the team that he knew they thought he had a favorite,
that they were right, and that Poppens was his favorite player.
36.

During Nicholes sophomore year, Fennelly told her during a meeting that she

wouldnt be anything without him, that she would be playing at Rice if he had not offered her a
scholarship, and that he made her who she is. Fennelly told Nichole that all she does is bitch.
Another black athlete, Brynn Williamson, was present for the meeting.
37.

In April 2014, during Nicholes junior year, Fennelly called her into his office and

said, I know you are the one who wrote a bad evaluation about me. I know you are trying to get
me fired. Plaintiff had not written a negative evaluation about Fennelly at the time.
38.

During Nicholes senior year, there were three seniors on the team, all of whom were

black. Fennelly told the freshman class that Nichole and the other seniors were bad influences
and to stay away from them.
39.

Fennelly had encouraged players to spend time around senior white athletes in prior

years, but issued the opposite advice when the seniors were black.

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40.

In October 2014, Fennelly suspended Nichole after she asked Jadda Buckley, a white

athlete, to stop shooting the ball so the team could work on their offensive plays during a practice.
41.

The assistant coach who first reprimanded Nichole later apologized to her for the

disagreement.
42.

Fennelly told Nichole she was the most selfish player he ever had, and then kicked

over a basketball rack, walked to a balcony, and glared at Nichole for the rest of the practice.
43.

Nichole is the first player that Fennelly has ever suspended.

44.

During a senior meeting, Fennelly told Plaintiff, You have been trying to ruin my

life, but I will get the last laugh. I cant wait to tell coaches that call me all the negative things I
know about you.
45.

During Plaintiffs senior year, Fennelly told Nichole to stop checking on, and trying

to help, Nakiah Bell, a black freshman, because she sucks.


46.

In the fall of 2014, Nicholes uncle passed away. When Nichole asked permission to

go to the funeral she was denied and told she was selfish for asking.
47.

White athlete Jadda Buckley was allowed to attend the funeral of an unrelated

neighbor. She was not accused of being selfish for wanting to attend.
48.

During a practice in January 2015, Fennelly stopped practice and told Nichole loudly,

for everyone to hear:


a. I cant wait to never have to see your face again;
b. You are the most selfish player I have ever coached, despite Plaintiff breaking the
career record for assists at Iowa State; and
c. I cant wait to tell everyone the truth about you.
49.

During a practice, Fennelly told the black athletes that they werent raised right

and all they did was take and never give.

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50.

During Nicholes senior year, one of Fennellys assistant coaches said, This is the

first and last time we will have this many black people on the team.
51.

Fennelly never spoke with Nichole when they passed each other outside of practice,

but he would speak with the white players that were next to her.
52.

Fennelly used scout team duty as punishment for minority players and never thanked

them for helping. When white players were on the scout team, Fennelly would thank them for
helping to make the team better.
53.

During Nicholes senior year, white freshman Emily Durr would regularly hang out

with Nichole and black freshmen Nakiah Bell and Blaire Thomas. Durr had a meeting with
coaching staff and then abruptly stopped hanging out with the black athletes.
54.

Fennelly had four favorite players, all of whom were white. These players were

allowed to room together on road trips and were afforded opportunities minority players were not,
such as dinner dates with coaches and specialized training from Fennellys daughter-in-law, a former
professional basketball player.
55.

Fennellys senior basketball players have traditionally given speeches near the

conclusion of their last season. For ten years preceding Nicholes senior year, the speeches were not
reviewed by Fennelly or the coaching staff before they were delivered.
56.

Fennelly required all the black senior athletes to have their speeches pre-approved by

57.

In prior years, white senior athletes who had a chance of being drafted by the

him.

Womens National Basketball Association were allowed to continue to use the facilities in
preparation for the WNBA draft.
58.

When Nichole scored 30 points in a game, Fennelly refused to respond to questions

about her performance, instead calling her not consistent.

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59.

During the last game of Nicholes career, Fennelly told another player to shut up,

and then told her that their opponent was thinking, Bitch, look at the score.
60.

White athlete Chelsea Poppens finished her career at the University in 2013. As of

June 2014, she was still training at the Universitys basketball facilities. The Universitys trainers
provided medical treatment to Poppens after she suffered an injury during a professional game in
Australia.
61.

Days after the conclusion of Nicholes senior season in March 2015, Nichole and

black athlete Brynn Williamson were told they were not welcome back to the basketball facility.
62.

Defendants removed Nichole and Brynns name tags from their lockers and left

Nicholes laying on the floor.


63.

Defendants placed Nicholes belongings in trash bags outside her locker.

64.

In March 2015, Fennelly told everyone he was changing the culture of the team

and then asked Blaire Thomas, a black athlete, to leave the team.
65.

In the summer of 2015, another black athlete decided to transfer to a different

school because of Fennellys treatment.


66.

Throughout Nicholes time at the University, Fennelly would threaten to take away

her scholarship, reminding Nichole that he controlled her access to education.


67.

Throughout Nicholes time at the University, white athletes were given preferential

room assignments on road trips.


68.

Nichole graduated from the University in 2015 after a stellar career in which she

received the following awards:


a. 2012: Big 12 Freshman of the Week (Nov. 21, Nov. 28, Jan. 30)
b. 2012: Big 12 All-Freshman Team
c. 2013: All-Big 12 Honorable Mention

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d. 2014: All-Big 12 Second-Team


e. 2015: All-Big 12 First-Team unanimous pick
f. St. Marys Thanksgiving Tournament All-Tournament Team
g. 2015: Nancy Lieberman Award Top-15
h. 2015: Big 12 Player of the Week (Feb. 9, Mar. 2)
i.

2015: WBCA All-Region Nominee

j.

2015: WBCA Honorable Mention All-American

k. Career Assists Leader at Iowa State University


69.

Throughout Nicholes career, Fennelly portrayed her negatively to the media, saying

she would be remembered for being suspended, not for any of her numerous on-court
accomplishments.
70.

Throughout Nicholes time at the University, she repeatedly complained to coaching

staff, including Director of Basketball Operations Josh Carper, Assistant Coach Jodi Steyer, and
Senior Associate Director of Athletics Dr. Calli Sanders, about the treatment she received from
Fennelly. Nothing was done in response.
71.

Throughout Nicholes time at the University, she was constantly demeaned, berated,

harassed, and discriminated against by Defendants. The abuse was so pervasive that Nichole
suffered severe emotional distress, which negatively impacted her grades.
72.

Despite Nicholes exemplary career on the court, Defendants did not add her to any

WNBA watch lists until her mother, Chrystal Moody, expressed her concerns about this to Director
of Basketball Operations Josh Carpenter.
73.

Nichole was selected with the 33rd overall pick in the 2015 WNBA draft by the San

Antonio Stars.

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74.

After Nichole was drafted, Fennelly stated, San Antonio is one of the leagues best

franchises and head coach Dan Hughes is a friend of mine.


75.

In April 2015, Nichole filed a complaint with the Iowa State University Office of

Equal Opportunity against Fennelly.


76.

The next month, Nichole was cut by Fennellys friend Dan Hughes, coach of the

San Antonio Stars.


77.

In November 2015, Fennelly stated on a radio program that he would no longer be

recruiting players from the south, where over half (55%) of all black Americans live.
78.

University President Steven Leaths wife, Janet Leath, attended Nicholes graduation

and spoke with her after the ceremony. Ms. Leath apologized to Nichole for Fennellys treatment
and asked questions about his treatment. Ms. Leath told Nichole that she had already heard about
much of his conduct.
79.

Josh Carper was an employee and agent of the University, acting at all material times

in the scope of his employment and agency.


80.

Jodi Steyer was an employee and agent of the University, acting at all material times

in the scope of her employment and agency.


81.

Dr. Calli Sanders was an employee and agent of the University, acting at all material

times in the scope of her employment and agency.


82.

William Fennelly was an employee and agent of the University, acting at all material

times in the scope of his employment and agency.


COUNT I
VIOLATION OF THE IOWA CIVIL RIGHTS ACT
RACE DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION
83.

Plaintiff realleges paragraphs 1 through 82 as if fully set forth herein.

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84.

Defendant Iowa State University of Science and Technology is and was at all times

material an educational institution within the meaning of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
85.

Defendants discriminated against Plaintiff with respect to programs and activities

conducted at the University, in violation of Iowa Code Chapter 216.


86.

Defendants created a hostile education environment through racial harassment in

violation of Iowa Code Chapter 216.


87.

Plaintiffs race was a motivating factor in Defendants actions.

88.

Plaintiff complained to Defendants about the race discrimination she experienced

and otherwise opposed practices made unlawful by Iowa Code Chapter 216.
89.

Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff because of her complaints and opposition to

discrimination.
90.

Plaintiffs protected activities were a motivating factors in Defendants retaliation

against her.
91.

As a result of Defendants illegal acts and omissions, Plaintiff has in the past and will

in the future suffer damages, including but not limited to mental and emotional distress, fear,
anguish, humiliation, intimidation, embarrassment, physical pain and suffering, lost enjoyment of
life, lost wages, and employment benefits.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgment against Defendants, jointly and severally, in an
amount which will fully and fairly compensate her for her injuries and damages, for appropriate
equitable and injunctive relief including but not limited to an order enjoining Defendants from
further violations of the ICRA, for prejudgment and postjudgment interest, for attorney fees and
litigation expenses, for the costs of this action, and for such other relief as may be just in the
circumstances and consistent with the purpose of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
JURY DEMAND

Petition and Jury Demand

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COMES NOW the Plaintiff and hereby requests a trial by jury.

__________/s/ Brooke Timmer__________


FIEDLER & TIMMER, P.L.L.C.
Brooke Timmer AT0008821
brooke@employmentlawiowa.com
Nathan Borland AT0011802
nate@employmentlawiowa.com
8831 Windsor Parkway
Johnston, IA 50131
Telephone: (515) 254-1999
Fax: (515) 254-9923
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF

Petition and Jury Demand

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