Civil rights activist reacts to UAlbany lawsuit

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An alleged violent attack on a UAlbany basketball player has now sparked a federal civil rights lawsuit.

There is no real debate about the incident, but there is plenty of controversy over whether
race is the main factor.

Head Coach Dwayne Killings, who is Black, admits he roughed up a white player in a locker room last year.

An Albany civil rights activist who has come to Killing’s defense says playing the race
card may be premature.

The former basketball player, Luke Fizulich, claims Killings assaulted him during an away game. The lawsuit contends Killings should have been fired, but was not because he’s Black.

Instead, Killings was suspended for five games at the discretion of the university.

The suit goes on to say, “instead of protecting Fizulich as the victim of the assault,” the school and the athletic director showed preference to Head Coach Killings “because of his race.”

Dr. Alice Green, the Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice, said to her this looks more like a criminal act. However, she says the issue at hand – was there discrimination in violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act?

“Did Mr. Killings do whatever that is suggested that he did based on race? Did he attack the victim because he was white? That is definitely racial discrimination, but I don’t see it. I don’t see how they’re making this claim,” said Green.

Green noted we really need to know what happened between the coach and his player right before the incident, and whether that was race-related.

When this story first broke in late March, Green supported Killings because of how active he was in the community.

“The community’s always been interested in having positive role models, particularly role models of color, to work with our young people in our community. This was how Mr. Killings was seen in the community. I stand by that,” she said.

She adds that is a separate statement from what he is up against in this new lawsuit.

The lawsuit also states no other universities will accept Fizulich on their basketball team. He’s essentially been blacklisted because of the alleged assault and publicity over it.

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A statement from Fizulich’s attorney, Stuart Bernstein with NESENOFF & MILTENBERG, LLP, said:

“The facts of this lawsuit couldn’t be any clearer — Coach Killings physically and publicly assaulted our client, student athlete Luke Fizulich, by violently hitting him in the face in the basketball locker room, to the point of drawing blood and busting stitches in his mouth. The assault is not in question, as Coach Killings has admitted it. This is inexcusable conduct for a Division I college coach and SUNY Albany was correctly intending to terminate Coach Killings for the physical assault of a student athlete—until community pressure made them reverse their initial decision.  

“Once SUNY Albany reversed their decision to terminate Coach Killings, they placed the victim of the assault at great risk of harm and retaliation by the coach and others.  As a result, Mr. Fizulich, the victim, was blacklisted at other schools and has been unsuccessful in his endeavor to find another school with a basketball program that would allow him on their team. His dreams of playing basketball in college and pursuing a basketball career in Europe are shattered, all stemming from the violent assault and retaliation by Coach Killings, and SUNY Albany’s deliberate indifference to Luke Fizulich.”