Racial discrimination lawsuit by former AU men’s soccer player dismissed in federal court
Former AU Hall of Fame Soccer player David Nakhid plans to appeal
The former AU player sued the University on the basis that he was more qualified than Zach Samol, the head coach ultimately hired. Nakhid, who is Black, also argued that AU had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for race-based discrimination when he was not hired or interviewed for the job.
According to United States District Judge Amit P. Mehta, AU denied any racial discrimination and claimed that Nakhid, despite a successful career as both a player and club team head coach, had no collegiate coaching experience and that the University was looking for coaches with a college background.
AU hired Samol, who is white, and had 18 years of college coaching experience. Samol led the Eagles to a Patriot League championship and the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2020-2021. AU has also employed just one Black head coach since 2004, hiring Marsha Harper to lead the women’s soccer team in late 2019.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with AU’s defense and granted the University summary judgment in an opinion written by Mehta.
The Court concluded that neither federal statute granted protections to a non-citizen who wasn’t living within U.S. borders. Nakhid is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and was living in Lebanon at the time he applied for the vacant coaching position. The opinion also concluded that Nakhid had not brought sufficient evidence to support his discrimination claims.
The Court stated that Nakhid was qualified for the position of men’s soccer head coach, but argued that Nakhid’s claims of racial discrimination were flawed based on the facts of the case.
According to court records, the search for a new men’s soccer head coach in 2018 received 100 applications that were reviewed by an all-white four-member committee: Associate Athletic Director Andrew Smith, Athletic Director Billy Walker, Deputy Director of Athletics Josephine Harrington, the Deputy Director of Athletics and the Associate Director of Athletics for External Affairs David Bierwirth.
Of the 100, eight applicants made it to the initial interview round, of which two applicants were Black, according to the document. The second round of interviews was held with five of the prospective coaches via Skype, and then a third and final on-campus interview was held with two of the applicants, one of whom was Black, as well as one of the assistant coaches. Nakhid, who’d reached out to Smith and Walker expressing interest in the job and was told to apply online, never made it to the initial interview round.
The judgment comes after nearly two years of litigation. The United States District Court of the District of Columbia denied AU’s initial request to have the lawsuit dismissed back in 2020 and allowed the case to go forward.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision to grant a summary judgment,” Chief Communications Officer Matthew Bennett wrote in an email to the Eagle. “American University utilizes thorough diverse hiring practices and is committed to fostering a welcoming workplace environment.”
Nakhid’s attorney Eden Brown Gaines expressed disappointment with the ruling and said in an email that Nakhid would appeal the District Court’s decision.
“Discrimination by an employer operating in the United States and subject to its laws is unlawful. Too many federal judges are indifferent to outright hostile to the federally protected rights of Black people,” Brown Gaines wrote in a statement to the Eagle. “The Court of Appeals will have to facilitate Mr. Nakhid’s access to justice and the American people will need to act to unseat the too numerous federal judges who maintain the status quo of white supremacy.”
Nakhid is currently an opposition senator on the Trinidad and Tobago Senate as a member of the United National Congress party and president and owner of the David Nakhid International Football Academy. Nakhid previously served as captain for the Trinidad and Tobago national team and unsuccessfully ran for president of Fifa in 2015.