A former Detroit Tigers clubhouse attendant filed a lawsuit against the club on Thursday, claiming that “a culture of racism was tolerated by the upper echelons of management, as African American employees were treated differently than their similarly-situated white counterparts” within the organization, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The former attendant, Derrell Coleman, filed the lawsuit Thursday and named both the Tigers and former pitching coach Chris Bosio, who was fired in June last year after making “insensitive comments that violated Club policy and his Uniform Employee Contract.”
Coleman, who is black, worked for the Tigers during the 2017 and 2018 seasons and suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome — a form of autism that can cause difficulties in social interactions and with non-verbal communications. The 22-year-old is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.
Coleman claimed in the lawsuit that Bosio called him a “monkey” and referred to him as “boy” before and during the 2018 season. He also said that Bosio threatened to “skin [him] the f--- alive” after he played a minor prank on him in the clubhouse, something he said was encouraged, according to NBC Sports.
Coleman was also suspended for two weeks after leaving bats in the clubhouse, though alleges that a white attendant received no discipline after forgetting to pack a catcher’s gear for a road trip, according to NBC Sports.
According to the complaint, “On June 25, 2018, his first day back from suspension, Plaintiff Coleman was in the hallway outside the coaches’ office when Defendant Bosio and bullpen catcher John Murrian approached in the hallway. Defendant Bosio and Murrian were engaged in a conversation and when Defendant Bosio saw Plaintiff Coleman, as part of the conversation, he said “he was a dead brained idiot – like this monkey here” referring to Plaintiff Coleman.
“Plaintiff Coleman immediately responded to Defendant Bosio and asked him “what did you say?” Defendant Bosio retorted – “I called you a monkey, so what?” Plaintiff Coleman, stunned and in disbelief, told Defendant Bosio that it was 2018 and that his usage of the word monkey in referring to an African-American was unacceptable.”
Coleman reported the interaction, and Bosio was fired four days later. He said in his complaint, however, that the team had initially just asked Bosio to apologize.
Bosio threatened to sue the Tigers for wrongful termination after he was fired, a process that Coleman said was “detrimental to his mental health” and caused post-traumatic stress disorder. The team reportedly offered him therapy sessions, and promised him positions with the organization in both “scout school” and an internship in the baseball operations department. Those, however, never came to fruition.
One day after Coleman was told he did not receive the internship, he was admitted to the hospital with suicidal thoughts and chest pains. The Tigers were aware that Coleman had Asperger’s Syndrome, per the report, something he feels the organization took advantage of.
“The Tigers did this with little to no regard for Plaintiff Coleman’s physical or mental health,” the complaint states, via the Detroit Free Press. “Plaintiff Coleman feared for his safety and believed that Defendant Bosio might try to contact him if he signed the affidavit. This resulted in Plaintiff Coleman developing symptoms of intrusive distressing memories, recurring distressing nightmares, prolonged physiological distress to internal or external stimulation, marked physiological reactions (panic attacks), difficulty concentrating and recurrent distress over personal safety due to fear of reprisal from Defendant Bosio and the Tigers’ organization.”
Tigers deny the accusations
The Tigers released a statement on Friday denying the allegations made against the organization, saying they instead took “swift and immediate” action after learning of Coleman’s accusations against Bosio.
“When this allegation was first brought to the attention of club management, we took swift and immediate action. We strongly refute the allegations against our organization made in Thursday’s filing. We hold all our personnel to the highest standards of personal conduct both on and off the field, and we have a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior and workplace harassment.”
Bosio pitched in MLB for 11 seasons for both the Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners, and served as the pitching coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, Brewers and Chicago Cubs before joining Detroit. He was in his first season with the Tigers when he was fired.
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