Gabrielle Union and her husband, NBA star Dwyane Wade, helped Cyrus Nance, 18, a Black high school basketball player, retain a civil rights attorney after he was expelled for allegedly cursing at a White coach.
According to the Miami Herald, Nance played on the varsity team of the American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida, with the Wades’ son Zaire and nephew Dahveon. He was kicked out of the school in November after a heated exchange with Greg Farias, the head coach of the girls’ varsity basketball team.
The high school senior said he and other minorities, including Dahveon, from the boys’ team were shooting basketballs during a low point of the girls’ practice on Nov. 13. Farias allegedly told them to leave and “respect your f***ing elders.”
Nance then responded by shouting expletives back at the coach. He was escorted off school grounds and expelled the next day. Farias, however, received no punishment.
The Wade family helped Nance and his mother, Angela Cross, retain Benjamin Crump, a Tallahassee, Florida attorney known for representing the families of slain teens Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
Crump believes Nance’s punishment was extreme and potentially discriminatory.
“Every fact in this case points to discrimination. Discrimination against a vulnerable single mother who the school might have believed had no resources to fight this injustice, a wrong that could very well have a lasting negative effect on Cyrus,” the attorney said in a statement to the press. “The school has already stolen four weeks of his education. The time has come for justice for Cyrus, to restore his hope for a bright and successful future.”
The high school denied discriminating against Nance. Eric Schwartzreich, an attorney for American Heritage, told the Miami Herald the 18-year-old did “more than using profanity toward a coach.” He also said footage from the incident and an investigation supported the punishment.
“American Heritage will not publicly discuss any student’s discipline given its respect for a student’s privacy and confidentiality over such matters,” Schwartzreich said in a statement. “However, the student handbook published to parents and students makes clear that any student who uses profanity at staff members or faculty will be expelled. The school consistently applies this guideline.”
Crump is asking that the school show the videotape of Nance’s actions. “If he did something wrong, then let us see it,” the attorney said. “His teammates say he didn’t do anything at all more egregious than what the basketball coach did to them.”
In a statement released last week, Wade and Union defended Nance, calling him a “good kid with a great mother and no history of behavioral issues.”
“Our family believes in getting to the truth with effective, timely communication,” their statement reads. “Unfortunately, this has not been the case and we refuse to stand by and allow a bright black child with a bright future to be seen as disposable. He is not.”