Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sex and Drugs Still at Issue in Fresno Trial

The sex discrimination trial between former women's basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein and her ex-employer Fresno State continues with more testimony about sex and drugs.

At issue is whether the athletic department terminated Johnson-Klein because of her drug problem (addiction to vicodin following an injury) or whether she was fired in retaliation for rebuffing sexual advances of the athletic director and threatening to expose gender inequities in the athletic department.

Johnson-Klein maintains that the fact she was terminated for drug use is actually further evidence of sexism in the athletic department, particularly, a sexist double standard when it came to addressing drug problems. An athletic department official testified at trial that some members of the basketball team who had failed drug tests continued to play for Fresno State. She also admitted to hearing concern that the (former) men's basketball coach, Ray Lopes, valued team success over athletes' health, and shared her opinion that he had both the discretion and the pressure to overlook drug use in the interest of winning. But she refused to support the plaintiff's characterization of the drug policy as a double standard, stating her belief that players' drug use and a coach's addiction warrant different responses, because coaches are in a position of responsibility for players.

Later, a separate witness, an athletic department employee, offered testimony that would tend to support Johnson-Klein's characterization of the athletic department's sexual culture. She described a sexual encounter that she witnessed in hotel room in Salt Lake City, where members of the athletic department traveled to watch the men's basketball team in the NCAA tournament, between the former athletic director, Scott Johnson, and a female athletic department employee with whom the witness was sharing a room. This testimony could undercut Johnson's earlier denial of charges of sexual impropriety. And if the jury thinks his denials are are not credible, they are more likely to believe Johnson-Klein's testimony that Johnson groped her at a car wash, a charge that Johnson also denied.

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