College Sports

Former football player claims racial bias in lawsuit against Sierra College

Former Sierra College football player Nebraska Huggins is suing the college, claiming racial discrimination in his dismissal from the team.
Former Sierra College football player Nebraska Huggins is suing the college, claiming racial discrimination in his dismissal from the team. hamezcua@sacbee.com

A former Sierra College football player who was kicked off the team after his arrest at a Rocklin apartment complex is suing the college and football coach Ben Noonan, claiming he was targeted because he is African American.

Nebraska Huggins, 22, already has filed suit in federal court in Sacramento against Rocklin police, who he says threatened him and roughed him up after he refused to agree that officers could enter his apartment without a warrant while a party was in progress in May 2014.

Huggins, a starting tight end, was kicked off the squad while he was still in jail after being arrested on charges of resisting arrest, obstructing an officer and being drunk in public.

However, the Placer County District Attorney’s Office later dropped the charges, and Huggins denied the charges in interviews with The Sacramento Bee, saying he does not drink and did not resist police. He said he felt threatened by three white officers after he was driven from the apartment complex to a dark, deserted parking lot for questioning before being taken to jail.

Rocklin police have denied wrongdoing but have said they are reviewing the case.

On Wednesday, Huggins filed a separate lawsuit against the college, Noonan and two individuals who have served as athletic director at the school, alleging violations of his civil rights and claiming he was kicked off the team without a chance to explain the encounter with the officers.

“They knew Huggins is African American and was accused of wrongdoing by and against the Rocklin Police Department,” says the lawsuit, filed by Sacramento attorney Stewart Katz in U.S. District Court. “Based on those facts, defendants summarily dismissed Huggins from the football team.

“Defendants also did not provide Huggins any redress or process to clear his name at Sierra College or to get back on the football team.”

The suit claims “Huggins correctly perceived that he was being mistreated because of his race” and, because of that, he “lost educational opportunities, suffered emotional distress, and ultimately left the area as a result of the treatment he received.”

Sierra College had no immediate comment on the new lawsuit.

Huggins told The Bee in July that he had always dreamed of playing football in college, and he had hoped to become a police officer, a goal he said he has abandoned because of what he experienced in the predominantly white area.

About 75 percent of Placer County’s residents are white; less than 2 percent are African American, according to census figures. Sierra College’s enrollment demographics indicate about 15,000 white students and 680 African Americans.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189

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