NCAA “No Felons” Rule Challenged

A Federal Court of Appeal in California heard oral argument this month in the case of  Dominic Hardie, a basketball coach with a 15-year old conviction for possessing less than a gram of crack cocaine. A former college basketball player, Hardie served no time for the plea in 2001, and since has gotten a degree in social work, worked as an investigator for the child protective services agency in Texas, and started a girls basketball program in Houston that has sent 30 girls to college on scholarships.

But in 2012, the NCAA enacted a ban on anyone with a felony conviction participating in an NCAA-certified tournament, such as those where Hardie’s Triple D Hoops AAU team would play in front of Division 1 coaches. Now Hardie is alleging the ban has a disparate impact on African Americans, and challenging it as a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

Hardie himself commented on the oral argument: “Hearing a judge say, ‘That’s a penalty you’re going to have to pay for the rest of your life,’ that’s hard to hear. That’s why I’m fighting it. We’re talking about mass incarceration and disparate impact. Hopefully we can change these prehistoric laws which pretty much everybody has concluded are ridiculous.”

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