Ole Miss Defensive Tackle Files Lawsuit Against Coach Lane Kiffin and University
An Ole Miss defensive tackle, DeSanto Rollins, has filed a lawsuit against football coach Lane Kiffin and the university, alleging denial of equal protection, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more. Rollins, a member of the football team since 2020, claims that Kiffin kicked him off the team because he requested a mental health break due to anxiety, depression, and mental stress.
The lawsuit further alleges that Rollins suffered multiple injuries in 2022 that caused severe depression and anxiety. It also claims that the university failed to provide him with mental health educational materials. Rollins asserts that Kiffin intentionally took adverse action against him based on his race and for requesting a mental health break, while not taking similar action against white student-athletes or female student-athletes.
Additionally, the lawsuit states that Rollins was considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act and was qualified to play for the school. However, Kiffin allegedly kicked him off the team because of his disability. The lawsuit claims that Rollins experienced physical pain, emotional distress, and anguish as a result of Kiffin and others’ actions and inactions.
Rollins is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Oxford Division.
In response to the lawsuit, Ole Miss’ athletics department stated that it had not received the lawsuit as of Friday morning. The university maintains that Rollins was never removed from the football team and remains on scholarship. They also claim that he continues to have access to all the resources and advantages afforded to student-athletes at the university.
According to the lawsuit, Rollins suffered a concussion, an Achilles tendon injury, and an LCL injury in his left knee in April, July, and August 2022, respectively. On November 28, 2022, he had an exit meeting with defensive line coach Randall Joyner, who allegedly pressured him to enter the transfer portal. However, Rollins chose not to transfer.
On January 6, 2023, Rollins’ grandmother passed away, which exacerbated his severe depression, anxiety, and other emotional distress. Rollins met with Kiffin on February 27, and the coach informed him that he would be moved from defensive tackle to the scout team on the offensive line because he refused to transfer.
During their meeting, Kiffin allegedly yelled at Rollins in a hostile and verbally threatening manner, telling him to quit if he didn’t like the decision. Rollins expressed his intention to take a mental health break due to the verbal abuse and his mental health struggles. The next day, after Rollins’ mother contacted an Ole Miss athletic trainer, he met with Josie Nicholson, the assistant athletic director for sport psychology, who encouraged him to prioritize his mental health.
Despite Rollins’ reluctance to meet with Kiffin, the coaching staff and training staff continued to contact him about it. Eventually, Rollins met with Kiffin on March 21. The lawsuit claims that during this meeting, Kiffin verbally assaulted Rollins despite knowing about his mental and emotional struggles.
Kiffin allegedly told Rollins that he was off the team and berated him for not showing up for weeks when the head coach asked to meet with him. The lawsuit includes a transcript of the alleged meeting, in which Kiffin dismisses Rollins’ mental health concerns and asserts that they have the right to remove him from the team.
Despite the lawsuit, Rollins remains on Ole Miss’ online roster. The Baton Rouge, La., native appeared in one game in 2021 and two in 2022.
This lawsuit raises important questions about the treatment of student-athletes and the responsibility of universities to prioritize their mental health. It also highlights the need for comprehensive mental health support and resources within collegiate athletic programs.
As the case unfolds, it will be crucial to examine the evidence and testimonies presented. The outcome of this lawsuit could have significant implications for the way universities handle mental health issues among their student-athletes and ensure equal treatment for all individuals regardless of race or gender.
It is important to note that these allegations are currently unproven and that both sides should have the opportunity to present their arguments in a court of law. The lawsuit will likely shed light on the truth behind Rollins’ claims and determine whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of Coach Kiffin and the university.
In the meantime, it is essential for universities and coaches to prioritize the mental health and well-being of their student-athletes. This includes providing access to mental health resources, creating a supportive environment, and addressing any concerns or complaints promptly and appropriately.
The outcome of this lawsuit could have far-reaching implications for college athletics and the treatment of student-athletes. It serves as a reminder that mental health should be a top priority in collegiate sports, and that athletes should feel supported and empowered to seek help when needed.
As the case progresses, it will be important to closely follow developments and consider the potential impact on the broader conversation surrounding mental health in sports.