Attorney for ex-Iowa Hawkeyes players pulls $20M demand, will sue

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The attorney representing eight Black former Iowa football players who allege racial discrimination during their time with the Hawkeyes has withdrawn his clients' demand for a $20 million settlement and told the university he will move forward with a lawsuit.

Damario Solomon-Simmons, a civil rights attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma, laid out his plan in a letter dated Tuesday to the Iowa solicitor general and university's general counsel.

Solomon-Simmons also on Tuesday requested all records from the external review of alleged racial inequities at Iowa by the Husch Blackwell law firm. The request includes "all names and contact information for each and every individual interviewed," as well as "documents, emails, text messages, wherein Husch Blackwell, LLP is listed, discussed, or identified between June 1, 2020 to the present."

Solomon-Simmons stated the players' initial demands in a 21-page letter to university officials dated Oct. 5. In addition to $20 million, the players called for the firings of head football coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive line coach Brian Ferentz and athletic director Gary Barta.

The university said it would not give in to the demands and that work had already begun to create a more welcoming environment for Black athletes.

The university in June hired an outside law firm to review the culture of the football program after dozens of former players, most of them Black, spoke out on social media to allege racial disparities and mistreatment. Their activism came as protests against racial injustice swept the nation following the death of George Floyd and after attempts to raise concerns inside the program resulted in only minor changes.

The former players who have said they were mistreated are Akrum Wadley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker, Marcel Joly, Maurice Fleming, Reggie Spearman, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Andre Harris.

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.