Parents of FAMU Women's Basketball Players Allege Abuse, Bullying and Discrimination

FAMU statement
Posted at 11:52 PM, Apr 05, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Shocking allegations from parents of players on the Florida A&M University women's basketball team. An investigation is underway into verbal abuse, bullying and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

WTXL ABC 27 received information from three parents who claim their daughters were abused, bullied and discriminated against...specifically by FAMU Head Women's Basketball Coach LeDawn Gibson. Each parent alleges the coach used profanity and called their daughters names.

They also allege that Coach Gibson made derogatory remarks about players' sexual orientation and discriminated against those athletes who identify as gay or associate with basketball players who are gay.

All three athletes have been dismissed from the team.

London Holland was released in February, according to her parents, because she, "didn't complete her study hall and the coaches couldn't deal with her anymore."

Kennedy Burks was released Monday, according to her parents on academic concerns, while DeAnn Whitlow was released Tuesday for, "non productivity on the court."

WTXL ABC 27 spoke with one of the parents who did not want her face to be shown. She said she met with FAMU Athletic Director Milton Overton, Deputy Director of Athletics Elliott Charles, Coach Gibson, Assistant Coach Andrea Johnson and Assistant Coach Terrance Chatman in January about the allegations, and at that time, according to the parent, the athletic department said they would look into the issues.

She told WTXL ABC 27 that she wants to make it very clear that she believes the university is out of line.

"These coaches, they feel like, you know, it's abuse of power. I'm so disappointed with the University. You send your child 500 miles away and a person sits and they look you in your face and they tell you that, you know I'm going to treat your child like she's my own. She looked me in my face and told that bold faced lie is the very person that has mistreated my child and I don't appreciate it. I'm going to fight for this 100%. I'm not giving up on this."

When WTXL received the allegations against Coach Gibson and the program, WTXL reached out to the University's media relations department and Florida A&M issued the following statement:

"To the extent there is an ongoing investigation, pursuant to 1012.91 Florida Statute and FAMU regulation 10.129, such documents would be currently confidential from disclosure."

However, WTXL has obtained a copy of a message sent from the University's Office of Equal Opportunity Programs to two of the athletes stating:

"The FAMU office of Equal Opportunity Programs has been informed that there are concerns about the behavior of the coaches of women's basketball. These concerns include verbal abuse and bullying of student-athletes, adverse actions against student-athletes involved in same sex relationships." It goes on to say, "Please contact the office if you wish to disclose any concerns."

In addition to reaching out to the University, WTXL also reached out directly to the athletic department. Athletic Director Milton Overton is out of town but stated, "if something is going on... we have no comment on an ongoing investigation."

One parent told WTXL that they did reach out to the NCAA who told her they have put in an urgent request to look into this, while another parent said they are considering legal action against the University.