A South Florida lacrosse player is taking the state’s high school athletic board to court after he was suspended from playing both football and lacrosse his senior year — a decision his attorney says was motivated by race.
Luther Johnson V, 17, says potential college scholarships are on the line, thanks to the shutout.
“That’s my future, my college future, for playing sports if I want to play sports,” Johnson told Local 10 News.
The star athlete, who attends the private Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, said he was benched by the Florida High School Athletic Association over his “unsportsmanlike” response to racist harassment, taunts and death threats lobbed at him by players at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School. Johnson was reportedly the only African-American player on the field at the time.
The teen returned from that suspension earlier this year, only to be benched yet again for alleged “targeting” during a match against Belen Jesuit Preparatory School. That’s when the FHSAA sidelined him for the entire year.
Johnson’s attorney, Rawsi Williams, decried the decision.
“Not one coach who reviewed that [game video] agreed to a year ban or even a few games,” Williams told WSVN. “They were saying these are in-game penalties.”
The teen’s coach, David Dunn, also took issue with the ban and said it could have a crippling effect on Johnson if not overturned.
“Him not being able to play his senior year, that would be devastating to him and his family,” Dunn said.
The move was challenged and later amended, allowing Johnson to play for the second half of the lacrosse season but barring him from playing football his senior year, according to the outlet. Williams filed a motion earlier this month to keep the association from enforcing the suspension in hopes of getting the athlete and honors student back on the field.
“If that order is granted … that means he gets to go out there and play,” she added. “Those items are necessary to stop the board’s actions in its tracks, so that Luther can play while the lawsuit is determined.”
In the meantime, Johnson’s family said they plan to fight back by filing a civil suit against the board, calling the ban unfair and racially motivated. The complaint seeks to reverse Johnson’s suspension, allowing him to play again.
“I don’t have to play sports, but that’s something that I love to do,” the teen said. “Playing sports is one love that I have, and I just don’t want to stop over a decision that people make, and I can’t make. I’m just ready to get back on that field.”
Watch more in the video below.