Posted by Mitchell Brudy on September 12, 2017

Bias cost player 4-year scholarship; players relegated to inferior ‘Negro League’ status

For Immediate Release:


PHILADELPHIA, PA (September 12, 2017) – Nadirah McRae, the former Strawberry Mansion High School African American lacrosse star, thought this semester her name would be featured on the Hartford University Hawks team program. Instead, it appears on the landmark Federal class action racial and sex discrimination lawsuit filed today against the School District of Philadelphia and its governing board. Nadirah, who overcame extreme adversity to earn a full scholarship and Alumni Grant, is fighting for justice after it and her dream of playing Division I lacrosse was ‘sabotaged’ by her high school counselor, according to the Complaint filed by Philadelphia Attorneys Aaron J. Freiwald and Glenn A. Ellis.

The multi-count Complaint (Case No:  17-cv-4054 U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania) details the extraordinarily tragic reversal of field for the North Philadelphia lacrosse phenom, whose playing career was mentored by Jazmine A. Smith, a former Radnor High School and Kutztown player), ex-Strawberry Mansion H.S. lacrosse and field hockey coach, and founder of a highly influential non-profit organization that promotes inner city girls lacrosse and field hockey to economically disadvantaged kids. Coach Smith, who vehemently protested the ‘intentional, outrageous foot-dragging’ that cost Nadirah her Hartford scholarship, also asserts that her players were relegated to what has become known as the ‘Negro League’ rather than regular Public League competition.  Since Coach Smith’s termination and the school’s’ girls lacrosse and field hockey programs have been disbanded, after never having fully been supported, unlike several other sports, such as boys football, basketball, track and field.

“Nadirah should be playing D-I lacrosse – with talented girls from all backgrounds – this year,” said Ms. Smith. “I stand with her in her fight for justice on behalf of every girl of color in Philadelphia who deserves equal treatment and equal opportunity, in every classroom and on every playing field.” She added, “For too long these girls in the poorest of neighborhoods, from under-performing schools, have been the victims of mistreatment and discrimination, forced to play in hand-me-downs, many without even cleats, and on surfaces that aren’t up to most dog-park standards. Change is long overdue.”

Mr. Ellis, a partner at Freiwald Law, was contacted by the McRae family after Nadirah learned that her university scholarship offer – valued at more than $250,000 – would not move forward, said he was shocked when Ms. Smith informed him of the double standard – and the so-called ‘Negro League’ – for inner city girls lacrosse in the District whose teams were thought to be unworthy competition for ‘the better, whiter programs’.

“It is 2017, baseball’s color barrier and the Negro League ceased operations decades ago, and yet in the City of Philadelphia school district officials derogatorily treat a cluster of overwhelmingly African American schools, including Strawberry Mansion, as the ‘Negro League’ when it comes to athletic programs for girls.” remarked Mr. Ellis.

Mr. Freiwald, co-counsel and managing Partner at Freiwald Law, added that “This lawsuit intends to once and for all abolish the District’s clearly discriminatory practice, ensure equal rights to all students in the District, and appropriately compensate Nadirah – and all other plaintiffs who may become part of the class action – for damages suffered, starting with the value of the scholarship that was ripped from her hands.”

“I love playing lacrosse, and I am still hoping one day to enroll at the University of Hartford and play for Coach Decker and the Hawks,” said Nadirah, who is currently a student at Cheyney University, which does not have a women’s lacrosse team. “I’ve overcome adversity to get where I am. I’m blessed and know that I can overcome and achieve and make my family proud.”


Mitch Brudy – Communications Director, Freiwald Law | MEB@FreiwaldLaw.com – 215-875-8000

Steph Rosenfeld | steph@idadvisors.com – 215.514.4101