Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin, who coached the Raiders for two seasons more than a decade ago, has been sued by a former player whom Kiffin allegedly kicked off the team.

Via Heather Dinich of ESPN.com, defensive tackle DeSanto Rollins claims he was dumped by Kiffin after missing practices and meetings during a “mental health crisis.” Rollins filed a lawsuit on Thursday alleging, among other things, failure to provide equal protection, race discrimination, and sexual discrimination.

Rollins claims that Kiffin and the school took adverse action against Rollins after he sought and took a mental health break. Rollins contends that white student-athletes and female student-athletes have not suffered adverse action for making and taking similar breaks.

The school, in a statement to ESPN.com, said that Rollins “was never removed from the football team and remains on scholarship,” and that “he continues to have the opportunity to receive all of the resources and advantages that are afforded a student-athlete at the university.”

The civil complaint contends that the school “did not have written institutional procedures for routine mental health referrals,” and that coaches and trainers did not receive “role-appropriate training about the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders and the behaviors of student-athletes to monitor that may reflect psychological concerns.”

Rollins claims he suffered multiple injuries that caused severe depression. The death of his grandmother in January 2023 contributed to the depression, per the lawsuit. On February 27, 2023, Kiffin allegedly informed Rollins he would move from defensive tackle to the scout team offensive line, after Rollins declined to enter the transfer portal.

Rollins then sought a mental health break. He declined to meet with Kiffin until March 21, 2023. At that time, Rollins made a legal recording of his meeting with Kiffin, without Kiffin’s knowledge.

“Ok, you have a fucking head coach, this is a job, guess what, if I have mental issues and I’m not diminishing them, I can’t not see my fucking boss,” Kiffin said, per the transcript of the meeting attached to the lawsuit. “When you were told again and again the head coach needs to see you, wasn’t to make you practice, wasn’t to play a position you don’t fucking want to, OK? It was to talk to you and explain to you in the real world, OK? So I don’t give a fuck what your mom say[s], OK, or what you think in the real fucking world, you show up to work, and then you say, ‘Hey, I have mental issues, I can’t do anything for two weeks, but if you change my position I won’t have mental issues.’ . . . I guarantee if we fucking called you in and said you’re playing defense, would you have mental issues?”

Rollins responded by saying, “I definitely would.” He also said, “I mean, you’re acting like my issues aren’t real.”

“I didn’t say they’re not real,” Kiffin said. “You show up when your head — when your boss wants to meet with you. It wouldn’t have been like this. If you would’ve come here when you kept getting messages the head coach wants to talk to you, you say ‘I’m not ready to talk to him.’”

“I wasn’t,” Rollins said.

“What fucking world do you live in?” Kiffin replied.

“I don’t see why you have to be disrespectful, honestly,” Rollins said.

“Get out of here,” Kiffin said. “Go, you’re off the team. You’re done. See ya. Go. And guess what? We can kick you off the team. So go read your fucking rights about mental health. We can kick you off the team for not showing up. When the head coach asks to meet with you and you don’t show up for weeks, we can remove you from the team. . . . It’s called being a pussy. It’s called hiding behind shit and not showing up to work.”

Setting aside the extent to which Kiffin’s alleged comments further obliterate the facade that college football players aren’t treated as employees and that playing college football isn’t a job (for which none of the employees are paid), the exchange will create very real challenges for Kiffin and Mississippi, as the case proceeds.

Rollins provided a short comment to ESPN.com about the case.

“I love Ole Miss, but they do not love me,” he said.

The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. The school told ESPN.com that it has not yet received the complaint.

When it does, the school presumably will investigate the situation. Depending on how the investigation goes, the situation could cause issues for Kiffin, as it relates to his own employment with the university.

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