KANSAS CITY — Jurors couldn’t reach a verdict Monday on whether the Raytown School District discriminated against former Missouri basketball star Jevon Crudup when firing him from a coaching job.
But they did decide that the parents of a former player contributed to Crudup’s firing as sophomore basketball coach at Raytown South High School, awarding actual damages of $3,249.80, plus another $25,000 in punitive damages.
The parents, Scott and Denise McCarter, secretly taped a profanity-laced tirade that Crudup made to his players. Crudup sued the McCarters and the school district in 2003, alleging that he was fired because he is black and that the school district treated him differently from white coaches who were caught swearing.
The case went to the Jackson County Circuit Court jury on Friday after about two weeks of testimony.
Michael Hanna, who represents the McCarters, said it was too early to decide on an appeal.
“I don’t think the punitive damages should be eight times higher” than the actual damages, Hanna said. “I have some real concern whether this jury understood the jury instructions.”
In his closing argument, Crudup’s attorney, Dennis Egan, said administrators had given longtime head coach Bud Lathrop, who is white, several “second chances” after swearing and that the worst disciplinary action Lathrop got was a suspension.
The school district said race wasn’t an issue in Crudup’s firing, and that his swearing and the tirade at the players sparked the dismissal. Shellie Guin, representing the school district, said administrators first planned to just reprimand Crudup, but changed their minds after learning about the tape.
Crudup also contended that the taping invaded his privacy and contributed to his firing. The jury couldn’t agree on the privacy issue, but agreed that the taping interfered with Crudup’s employment.
Crudup played for MU from 1990 to 1994 and was drafted in the NBA draft’s second round.