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NINTH CIRCUIT IN FAVOR OF NCAA'S POLICY OF EXCLUDING ANYONE WITH A FELONY CONVICTION FROM COACHING AT NCAA-CERTIFIED YOUTH ATHLETIC TOURNAMENTS

June 29th, 2017

Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the NCAA's policy of excluding anyone with a felony conviction from coaching at NCAA-certified youth athletic tournaments violates Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000a(a). Section 2000a(a) prohibits racial discrimination in places of public accommodation. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the NCAA and held that even if disparate-impact claims were cognizable under Title II, plaintiff has not shown that an equally effective, less discriminatory alternative to the NCAA's felon-exclusion policy exists, as he must do under the three-step analysis for disparate-impact claims set forth in Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642 (1989). The panel noted that it need not decide whether to endorse or reject disparate-impact liability under Title II.

Hardie proposed two alternatives to the Participant Approval Policy: (1) the NCAA could revert to the pre-2011 version of the policy, which disqualified applicants with violent but not nonviolent felony convictions that were at least seven years old; or (2) the NCAA could conduct individualized assessments of applicants with felony convictions to determine if they would pose an unacceptable risk to the safety of tournament participants. The Court held that Hardie has failed to show that either of his proposed alternatives would be both equally effective compared to, and less discriminatory than, the current policy.

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