Former Tigers clubhouse attendant sues team alleging racial discrimination

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In June of 2018 the Detroit Tigers fired pitching coach Chris Bosio after it was alleged that he made racist comments to an African American clubhouse attendant. Bosio, it was claimed, called the attendant a “monkey.” Yesterday, the now-former attendant, a man named Derrell Coleman, sued the Tigers and Bosio, claiming that, in the Tigers organization, “a culture of racism was tolerated by the upper echelons of management, as African American employees were treated differently than their similarly-situated white counterparts.”

The complaint — which can be read in full via the link at the end of this post — claims that in addition to incident in which Bosio called Coleman a “monkey,” Bosio had called Coleman “boy” during Spring Training 2018. Coleman also claims that after playing a prank on Bosio by placing “an object” in Bosio’s locker before he was interviewed by the media, which Coleman claims was the sort of prank which was encouraged in the clubhouse, Bosio threatened to “skin [him] the f**k alive.”

Coleman additionally claims that he was suspended once by the Tigers for leaving some bats in the clubhouse where they did not belong but that a white clubhouse attendant received no discipline at all for the far more serious mistake of not packing a catcher’s equipment for a road trip, requiring the attendant to personally drive it to Chicago.

Coleman says that the culture of the Tigers was such that he felt pressure not to complain about Bosio’s behavior as it would be bad for his employment prospects. He claims that Bosio was not going to be fired for the “monkey” incident and that the Tigers initially only asked Bosio to apologize. The Tigers’ hand was forced, however, when the national media was made aware of the incident and they changed course.

Bosio subsequently threatened to sue the Tigers for wrongful termination. Coleman claims that when Bosio threatened litigation the Tigers reached out to Coleman and asked him to draft a written statement about the incidents. Doing so, Coleman claims, was detrimental to his mental health, placed him in fear of being contacted by Bosio, and caused post-traumatic stress disorder.

Coleman continued to work for the Tigers through the end of 2018. Late in the season he was encouraged by front office officials to apply for an internship in the baseball operations department. He alleges that those overtures — made by senior Tigers executive Willie Horton, who is also African American — while initially promising, subsequently appeared to be aimed at assuaging Coleman and, he suspects, to enlist his help in defending potential litigation from Bosio and/or forestalling a lawsuit of his own. He adds that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, that the Tigers were aware of this, and that the allegedly disingenuous overture regarding the internship played into what he alleges is a “desire to feel needed” caused by his Asperger’s. Coleman did not ultimately receive the internship, and was told months later that the team had decided “to go in a different direction.” Coleman had intended to write a letter to Tigers executives voicing his displeasure about all of this but was told that doing so was likely to get him fired. He was eventually encouraged by the Tigers to return to college.

There has been no comment by the Tigers since the suit was filed. I presume we’ll not hear much more from them as businesses tend not to comment on pending litigation. Guess we’ll see.

Here’s the complaint:  Verified Complaint.SUBMITTED TIME STAMP

UPDATE: The Tigers have released the following statement regarding the lawsuit:

“When this allegation was first brought to the attention of club management, we took swift and immediate action. We strongly refute the allegations against our organization made in Thursday’s filing. We hold all of our personnel to the highest standards of personal conduct both on and off the field, and we have a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior and workplace harassment.”