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Inquiry finds New Mexico State did not discriminate

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- The New Mexico State University football program did not engage in religious discrimination against three former student-athletes, according to a law firm commissioned by the university to investigate the allegations.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico had filed a
grievance against NMSU coach Hal Mumme last month, claiming he
discriminated against a Muslim player by repeatedly questioning him
about al-Qaida.

The grievance, which was filed on behalf of former Aggies
running back Muammar Ali, also said the football staff required the
team to recite the Lord's Prayer at the end of practices.

Similar allegations were made regarding the release of Muslim
twins Anthony and Vincent Thompson.

The investigation by Albuquerque law firm Miller Stratvery found
that the players were released from the team based on their
performance and attitudes, not because of religion. The
investigation included interviews with the football coaching staff,
athletics department personnel and student-athletes.

Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU New Mexico, said
the findings were disappointing and questioned the impartiality of
the probe.

"I think it's very troubling that the university could not find
any basis for these allegations whatsoever when three very sincere
individuals came forward with such serious allegations," he said.
"It really raises questions in my mind about the university's
commitment to diversity and racial equality and issues of
equality."

The ACLU, which said Ali does not want to return to the Aggies
to play for Mumme, was seeking a public apology from Mumme and
disciplinary action against him. It also asked that the school
provide diversity training to all students and employees.

Mumme said during a news conference Monday that he apologized to
his team for any unintentional actions on his part that may have
offended anyone.

He also said he was relieved to have the situation put behind
him and admitted it has been a large distraction to his team, which
plays its final game of the season on Saturday.

"It has been a very difficult month," Mumme said.
"Personally, myself and my family have been very saddened by these
allegations that go against everything myself and my family are
about."

NMSU athletics director McKinley Boston said the allegations
surfaced only after the players were dismissed.

"I've always had a clear conscious about how we deal with all
of our student-athletes," he said. "We want them to feel
comfortable in our program, and we want to develop the total
person, not just the football player."

Boston said the department has established a policy that allows
for a moment of silence but that does not support organized prayer.