Black Tennis Umpire Sues USTA For Racial Discrimination, Retaliation

    Deadspin is reporting that Tony Nimmons, a chair umpire of African descent, is suing the United States Tennis Association for racial discrimination and is seeking reinstatement to his USTA position as well as compensatory damages. The complaint, filed Friday in federal court for the Eastern District of New York, was filed after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision issued a finding that there was “reasonable cause to believe” the USTA discriminated and retaliated against Nimmons and issued a “right to sue” on the basis of the claims in January.

    Nimmons, who has worked all four grand slams as well as major tournaments across the country and was called “one of the best in the sport” by the USTA’s own website, said he dealt with racism and derogatory language and the alleged retaliation occurred after he brought said complaints to his superiors.

    During the 2013 US Open in New York City, a Caucasian USTA umpire, allegedly said, Hey Tony, if you were a hungry monkey and I told you there was a watermelon in the tree go get it! How would you feel?

    At a USTA Challenger event in Dallas, Texas in 2012, a Caucasian umpire yelled, Tony, you should go back to the ghetto! This same Caucasian umpire yelled, Run nigger, Run! while watching a track meet. Despite that, after so many complaints of racism, the Plaintiff personally heard his manager, Bruce Littrell, say of the same Caucasian umpire, that he, is a good person and he deserves to be at the US Open.

    The USTA generally refuses to remove, or even reprimand, racist players or officials. After each one of these incidents and on numerous other occasions, Plaintiff filed complaints.

    Ironically, Nimmons was hired as a full-time employee in 2009 to promote diversity at the USTA.  This came three years after the New York Attorney General’s Office ruled that the organization failed to adhere to state labor laws and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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    Below is a portion of the Nimmons’ statement;

    “Like many other African Americans, women and other minorities, the USTA has treated me badly because of who I am, the color of my skin. In addition to the daily abuse that I never saw Caucasian male employees experience, I was called a monkey. I was told to return to the ghetto. I even heard and reported to the USTA that a hangmans noose hung near the desk of another African-American employee at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Rather than call the police or bring back the Attorney General to investigate this ongoing racism, I understand the USTA did nothing.”

    “In response to my pleas to end the racial discrimination against me and conduct an independent investigation, I was stripped of my work including my diversity duties and travel to the Grand Slams tennis tournaments (e.g., the Australian Open, French Open-Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open), to promote diversity, and where I had otherwise officiated with approval for decades.”

    “I was further retaliated against and transferred to a job as a video editor without any training. Many African Americans or women at the USTA who have complained of discrimination have either been terminated or have been so abused that they quit. Few minorities are willing to risk being kicked out of tennis and have to endure the racism and other discrimination. Myself, when I complained, I was forced out of tennis by USTA management.”

    The USTA denied Nimmonss allegations and said in a statement to Deadspin: The EEOC did not conduct a full and comprehensive investigation. The agency did not contact or speak to any USTA witnesses as a part of its review process. As a result, the facts alleged by Mr. Nimmons were not adequately tested and the issues raised were not fully aired or considered.