District court denies the University’s dismissal of race-based discrimination lawsuit
Court rejects AU’s arguments from the Jan. 6 motion to dismiss
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied American University’s dismissal of a lawsuit by David Nakhid, a Hall of Fame soccer player at AU from the 1980s, on Monday. Nakhid sued AU for race-based discrimination in October when he was not hired as the men’s soccer team’s head coach.
The University sought dismissal of the lawsuit on Jan. 6, stating that Nakhid did not provide “any facts rendering it plausible that discrimination motivated the employment decision.”
In the motion to dismiss, the University stated that Nakhid was not qualified for the position because he did not have experience coaching at the collegiate or professional level, working with male college student-athletes or within the NCAA or Patriot League.
The court said Monday that Nakhid does have professional-level coaching experience, as he was the head coach for the David Nakhid International Football Academy, an organization that he founded and coached for after he retired from professional soccer.
Additionally, the job posting did not require “actual work experience” within the NCAA and Patriot League and with male college student-athletes, but rather the ability to work both within the NCAA and Patriot League regulations and with male college student-athletes, the court argued.
The University said in their motion to dismiss that Nakhid never argued that the hiring staff knew his race. However, the court rejected this defense because the soccer player’s Hall of Famer status at AU makes him “widely recognized.”
The court opinion stated that Nakhid, who identifies as black, argued that he was a successful professional soccer player who has international coaching experience, while Zach Samol, the candidate who was hired and who is white, never played professionally or worked as a head coach. In assuming these allegations to be true and “drawing all instances” in Nakhid’s favor, the court argued, these allegations are sufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.
AU argued that Samol held licences from the United States Soccer Federation and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, while Nakhid did not. “Samol’s alleged lack of these experiences do not assist Nakhid in demonstrating any inference of discrimination,” AU’s attempted dismissal stated.
Nakhid played soccer for AU from 1983 to 1986 and was inducted into the Stafford H. Cassell Hall of Fame in 2005. After graduating, he went on to play professionally in Switzerland, Belgium and Greece.
“The district court’s decision does not reflect any conclusions on the merits of this case,” Director of Public Affairs Stacie Burgess wrote to The Eagle in an email. “As this matter proceeds to the next phase, the University is confident that the facts will show that Mr. Nakhid was treated in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to equity and inclusion in all aspects of hiring and employment.”
Nakhid’s attorney could not be reached. AU Athletics declined to comment, stating the department does not offer any statements on pending litigation.
Dan Papscun contributed reporting to this story.