by Doug Brown
A 2013 graduate of Medina High School is taking to federal court because he feels he didn't get enough playing time on the varsity basketball team and that his First Amendment and due process rights were violated when he was finally booted from the team for taking to Twitter to complain about it.
Chase Johanson — now a high jumper at UNC-Wilmington — is suing the Medina City School District, Medina basketball coach Anthony Stacey, Medina athletic director Jeff Harrison, and Medina High School principal Bryan Farson. Johanson's asking for in excess of $75,000.
You can check out the full complaint below, but beware, you may want to headbutt your computer screen as you dive into the world of entitled high school athletes who call the coach, his boss, his boss’s boss, and their employers into court because of playing time.
The complaint says his "relationship with the Medina High School Basketball Program began to sour in December of 2010 during his sophomore year when there was a conflict of interest between a school sponsored musical performance, in which Plaintiff was a participant, and a basketball game. Following the code of conduct for the school, when such a conflict arises, there was an agreement that he could participate in the musical performance with no clarification of penalty. However, as a result of his participation he was made ineligible to participate in one half of their next basketball game."
From there, Johanson and his parents complained to the athletic director ("The coach was required to apologize"), but then felt his "playing time was noticeably reduced for the remainder of the season and he was singled out for negative treatment.” Then, despite a coaching change, Johanson "felt that he was treated negatively and differently than other players."
He didn't make the varsity team his junior year, playing "exceptionally well" and "despite his performance" he was "passed over for promotion to the varsity team by at least one underclassman who was not a starter on the junior varsity team." When he was a senior, he was put on varsity "but was relegated to very little playing time.
His time there was short lived because he took to Twitter on December 14, 2012, after he "sat on the bench the entire game." Per the complaint, he tweeted "Am I that bad that I can't even play on a losing team?" (A review of his Twitter account shows a tweet saying "Am I THAT BAD? #sittingonalosingteam.") And the next day: "At this point the trainer has been on the floor more than I have," and then "At least the Brunswick coaches would take me to play basketball" (his actual Twitter account says "Elyrias coaches and Brunswicks coaches said they would take me to play basketball... if only it was legal #satthroughthreelosses).
The coach kicked him off the team after that.
Johanson's lawyer filed the suit yesterday on three counts, asking in excess of $25,000 for each.
Count 1: That his and his parents' complaints and letters to school officials, and his posts on Twitter, were protected by the First Amendment and that his "ill treatment and ultimate removal" from the varsity team "was a direct retaliation against him for the Constitutionally protected activity...". Because of this, Johanson "suffered humiliation and embarrassment, a loss of liberty, and the lost opportunities for both personal enrichment and potential scholarships."
Count 2: That because Johanson had a desire to play "at the highest level that he could achieve" it is a "liberty interest." By cutting him — thus depriving him of his "liberty interest" — it is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment because it was done without "due process of law."
Count 3: that his due process was violated because he has "a right to be heard and present ones defense before an impartial body" before getting kicked off the team.