GW, former men’s tennis player settle racial discrimination lawsuit after nearly five years

Attorneys representing GW and Jabari Stafford, who played on the men’s tennis team from fall 2014 to fall 2017, met last week before Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey for the settlement conference and reached a settlement.

Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2023, at 8:25 p.m. 

A former men’s tennis player last week settled his nearly five-year-long lawsuit against GW in which he alleged more than three years of racial abuse from teammates and coaches.

Attorneys representing GW and Jabari Stafford, who played on the men’s tennis team from fall 2014 to fall 2017, met last Wednesday before Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey for the settlement conference and reached a settlement, according to both parties. In his 2018 suit, Stafford, who is Black, said he experienced racial discrimination and harassment at the hands of his teammates and coaches, including teammates’ regular use of the N-word and other slurs against him and racial jokes and images.

The judge officially dismissed the case “with prejudice” Wednesday, meaning the parties cannot file the case again.

Both parties declined to release the terms of the settlement, as is common for settled cases.

In his initial case, Stafford requested $1 million to compensate for the discrimination and the emotional and mental distress he experienced afterward.

Riley Ross III, the attorney representing Stafford, said the suit was “amicably resolved,” and the terms of the settlement are confidential.

A University spokesperson said the case was “amicably settled.” The spokesperson declined to say whether officials would change any GW athletics policies following the settlement.

Both parties moved to make 12 previously sealed court documents totaling more than 700 pages public late last month, including deposition transcripts and email exchanges from men’s tennis coach Greg Munoz to Stafford.

Stafford first sued the University, athletics department officials, and 10 former members of the men’s tennis team in November 2018, alleging they racially discriminated against him by tolerating and participating in racist behavior and jokes. Christopher Cooper, a D.C. District Court judge, narrowed down the cases’ defendants to include only the University in a 2019 order.

Cooper struck the case down in January 2022, citing the expiration of a one-year statute of limitations for discrimination claims per the D.C. Human Rights Act. Stafford successfully appealed the case the same month after Stafford argued he experienced personal injury, which in D.C. has a three-year statute of limitations.

Stafford joined the team in fall 2014 and Munoz first suspended Stafford from the team in early 2015, citing his behavior and “anger control issues” in a now-unsealed email from Munoz to Stafford in January 2015. Stafford’s initial 2018 lawsuit claims Munoz suspended him after Stafford confronted Chris Reynolds, the co-captain of the team, for his use of the N-word.

“You are disrespectful to your teammates,” Munoz said in the email. “You have anger control issues as well as profanity issues. You do not represent the values GW is expecting from a student-athlete.”

Munoz said there was “never” any racism or discrimination when he was working at the University in a statement to The Hatchet Thursday.

Stafford alleged in his case and subsequent appeal that officials failed to address instances of his teammates using the N-word and other slurs against him.

“Coach Munoz always had this perception of me in terms of the fact that I was this angry Black male, and everything that I did was embellished to the, you know, to the maximum,” Stafford said in a now-unsealed 2019 deposition that lasted more than nine hours. “You know, if, if I were to yell out something, you know, after a missed shot, you know, he would come talk to me and scrutinize me and everything, while all the other tennis players were breaking racquets and cursing out referees.”

The University suspended Stafford from GW in January 2018 after he received a GPA below 2.0 for two consecutive semesters, according to the case’s initial judgment in January 2022. Stafford said in a 2018 interview that he withdrew from GW in December 2017 because of the harassment and discrimination he faced.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I was a complete angel during my freshman year,” Stafford said in the 2019 deposition. “I was a regular kid that had regular issues but that was also being discriminated against on an everyday basis.”

This post was updated to reflect the following:

The Hatchet updated this story to include a statement from Munoz.

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