Court Denies NCAA, UNM and Head Coach’s Motion to Dismiss in Player Suicide

Oct 8, 2021

A federal judge from the District of New Mexico has partially denied the NCAA’s, University of New Mexico’s, and former head coach Robert Davie’s motions to dismiss in a case involving a UNM Lobos football player, Nahje Flowers, who committed suicide after allegedly being forced to continue playing football despite suffering serious brain injuries from multiple concussions.

After Nahje’s death, his family filed a lawsuit against the University of New Mexico, the NCAA, and his former coach, Robert Davie, for their alleged roles in Nahje’s untimely death.

Nahje, a starter for UNM’s defensive line tragically took his own life on November 5, 2019 after “experiencing harassing and degrading treatment by Davie, as well as other coaches and school officials” according to the family’s attorneys.

The attorneys, from the firms Hilliard Martinez Gonzales, LLP, Ben Crump Law, PLLC, and Hilare McGriff, continued: “Nahje was required to continue and play despite suffering multiple concussions and head injuries from playing, even though white players were permitted to sit out and recover when similarly injured. Plaintiffs highlighted Coach Robert Davie’s deplorable conduct with respect to how he treated African American student-athletes, specifically Nahje Flowers, and the Court found that Plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged that head coach Robert Davie discriminated against Nahje Flowers based on his race and Plaintiffs can move forward on their § 1983, equal protection and substantive due process claims against Robert Davie. As the Court stated, Plaintiffs adequately plead that Davie engaged in racially discriminatory behavior by forcing Flowers to play football while not forcing similarly situated white players to play.”

The NCAA argued that it could not have predicted Nahje would kill himself, and the suicide was an “intervening cause” that prevents the NCAA from being liable. The court disagreed, stating, in part:

“The Court concludes that, here, the Plaintiffs plead sufficiently that the NCAA’s conduct — namely, its failure to implement protocols to treat N. Flowers’ concussion — induced the suicidal ideations that led to N. Flowers’ death. Accordingly, the Court denies the NCAA MTD with respect to the wrongful death claim.”

The Court also denied the University of New Mexico’s motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiffs’ Title VI claims against the University and the Board of Regents.

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