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.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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