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Former Lenoir-Rhyne women's basketball players, team manager file $26 million lawsuit against university

Prior to the announcement of the lawsuit, Lenoir-Rhyne released findings of an independent investigation into the matter.

HICKORY, N.C. — A lawsuit filed by some former members of the Lenoir-Rhyne women's basketball team is seeking at least $26 million against the Hickory-based school.

Former player Laney Fox confirmed with WCNC on Thursday, July 8, the lawsuit was filed against the university, women's basketball coach Graham and Lenoir-Rhyne President Frederick Whitt. 

According to a release provided by Fox, she was among eight former basketball players and a team manager participated and spoke out against racism and for social justice following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

The release states the women spoke during a symposium spearheaded by Fox and participated in by some school officials and the entire basketball team. 

"Laney Fox and team manager Fatou Sall later initiated a symposium for the entire Lenoir-Rhyne University Community dealing with racism and social justice. The women contend that after these events, women's basketball coach Grahm Smith retaliated against them by kicking them off the women's basketball team and thus damaging their college basketball careers. University President Frederick Whitt was also sued by Laney Fox for publishing allegedly defamatory statements about her to the Lenoir-Rhyne Campus Community," the release read. 

RELATED: Former Lenoir-Rhyne women's basketball player claims she was cut from the team for speaking up against alleged racist teammates

Credit: Laney Fox

You can read the full lawsuit below on Fox's Instagram account. 

The nine people in the lawsuit are being represented by Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy and Kennedy LLP out of Winston-Salem. 

WCNC has reached out to the Lenoir-Rhyne and the attorneys representing the women. 

Prior to the announcement of the lawsuit, Lenoir-Rhyne released findings of an independent investigation into the matter.

According to the university, some non-returning women's basketball players, including Fox, declined interviews. The study included transcripts from recorded conversations, social media posts, texts and other relevant material. 

The university says based on the internal investigation, there was "no evidence that the current women's basketball coaching staff promotes or facilitates a culture of racial insensitivity."

Lenoir-Rhyne says the report in full will not released due to "the strict confidentiality rules to protect student privacy under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)."

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RELATED: Lenoir-Rhyne to require COVID-19 vaccines beginning fall 2021 semester

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