Zina Garrison is planning to sue the USTA for racial discrimination, claiming she was wrongly dismissed as the captain of the Fed Cup team. She's seeking millions of dollars in back pay and damages.
A USTA spokesman, Chris Widmaier, responded, “I will not comment specifically on threatened litigation. But I would like to point out that over the years, Ms. Garrison has been asked by the USTA to serve in any number of capacities, including as a USTA board member, a USTA committee member and as captain of the USA Fed Cup team. So what I will say in looking at that history is we would be puzzled by any allegation that Ms. Garrison has been discriminated against, and we would vigorously defend such an allegation.”
This would not be the USTA’s first brush with racial charges. The organization is currently being sued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York by Marvin Dent, who alleges the group did not promote him to director of tennis at the National Tennis Center in favor of Whitney Kraft, who is white. Dent’s complaint alleges a pattern of racial discrimination at the group, a charge the USTA vigorously contests.
In addition, in 2006, the New York state attorney general and the USTA entered into a consent decree that directed the tennis group for two years to create a transparent process for applying for chair umpire positions. The USTA had been sued in 2005 by two black umpires, Cecil Hollins and Sande French, who alleged the USTA allowed racist comments directed toward African-American umpires.
So this is basically going to be a "You have a long history of discrimination and you're doing it again" vs. "We gave you a boatload of opportunities and you sucked" case. I wrote my law review article on employment discrimination (my controversial argument: it sucks), and I'm not saying I know much about it but I'm pretty sympathetic to ED plaintiffs. But dude, Zina. You were Fed Cup Captain for four years, during which time the U.S. never won Fed Cup despite having Venus, Serena, Lindsay, Lisa Raymond, and Liezel Huber. Now obviously that's not entirely your fault (if Vee and Serena don't want to play they don't want to play), but what did you expect? This is what we call a "legitimate non-descriminatory basis" for your termination. They gave you four bites at the apple, it didn't happen, and now they're bringing in Mary Jo.
All this is to say I hope that Zina has more evidence to support her case. Because right off the bat the USTA is going to win the PR war and they can point to a legit reason for your termination. She's going to need evidence to show the "legit reason" is just pretext and a cover for the underlying discriminatory reason. But considering that they were already in settlement discussions and those discussions broke down, and sure the USTA doesn't want this to be public if in fact they did something sinister here, I'm thinking she doesn't have that strong of evidence.
Or maybe I'm just talking out of my ass. Probably.