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EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally reported by the Montgomery County Chronicle weekly newspaper in its Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 edition. The story is reprinted below with permission from the Montgomery County Chronicle, which does not have an online website that posts its stories.
INDEPENDENCE — “I’m your new Hitler” was texted by Independence Community College head football coach Jason Brown to a native German athlete at ICC during a series of texts on Feb. 12 concerning disciplinary action taken by the coach, the Montgomery County Chronicle reported.
Brown also referred to the athlete as “u German f—.” Later texts that day from Brown informed the athlete, freshman Alexandros Alexiou, that he was being cut from the team and that his scholarship had been revoked.
On Monday, Alexiou posted a screen shot of the text message exchange on social media. The posting of that text message exchange has created an ample conversation on social media ... and also put questions at the front step of the ICC administration.
Contacted by the Montgomery County Chronicle on Tuesday for a response, ICC President Dan Barwick said, “Independence Community College does not condone the language Coach Brown used in his message. I have spoken with Coach Brown about his message to the student, and he fully understands that his language was not appropriate. The college is investigating the matter and will have no further statement at this time.”
The Chronicle contacted Alexiou (pronounced ah-LEX-ee-oh) regarding the text messages and to hear his justification for spreading that text conversation on social media.
Alexiou, a redshirt freshman from Dortmund, Germany, said he was suspended by Coach Brown the previous week for several athletic department-related issues. Alexiou said he met with ICC athletic director Tammie Geldenhuys about his suspension.
In a discrimination report filed by Alexiou this week, Alexiou claims Geldenhuys told him he should calm down, take some time and talk to the coaches again in a few days about his suspension.
Alexiou said the ICC football program has a disciplinary point program that applies points to individual players for violating team rules, including being late for team meetings or practices, instigating fights, etc. Players who accumulate 25 disciplinary points are kicked off the team, Alexiou claimed.
Following that conversation between Alexiou and Geldenhuys, Brown sent text messages to Alexiou on the afternoon of Feb. 12. In the initial text, Brown said Alexiou had received 17 disciplinary points as well as one additional point for not hanging a specific poster as Alexiou had been instructed.
That’s when Brown texted, “I’m your new Hitler figure out your life.”
Alexiou questioned Brown about the assessment of those disciplinary points. In response, Brown said he imposed the points due to Alexiou’s disobedience.
Brown also said in a text 12 minutes later that Alexiou was being cut from the team. One minute later, Brown sent an additional text in which he told Alexiou, “I’ll take u off the f— scholarship I gave u too since u have forgotten that.”
Brown also said in his texts that Alexiou should confer with assistant coaches for an explanation about the team points.
Alexiou said he was disturbed by Brown’s texts, especially with the reference about “I’m your new Hitler.” Even more disturbing were the texts that Brown had pulled Alexiou’s financial support and removed him from the team.
Ever since those text messages became public, Alexiou said he has learned that his scholarship remains in place.
However, his place on the team is unknown.
On Monday of this week, Alexiou said he was singled out by Coach Brown during a daily team meeting. Alexiou said Brown referred to him as a “f—ing mother f—“ and said he should not even be in the meeting room.
Alexiou reported the incidents to ICC President Barwick on Monday. Alexiou recorded the conversation with Barwick, in which Alexiou could be heard relaying his version of the team meeting incident.
“Unbelievable,” Barwick is heard saying, following a long exhale, after hearing Alexiou’s version of the story. “I’m sorry that you have to go through that.”
In that conversation, Barwick said he would meet with Coach Brown about the incident and relay a report to Alexiou about his investigation.
Alexiou also conferred with several ICC assistant coaches about the incident. In those conversations, which were also recorded, one unidentified coach asked Alexiou if he had reported the incident to Barwick. At the time, Alexiou had attempted to reach Barwick, but Barwick was not in his office, Alexiou said. The coaches pressed Alexiou for details about which ICC staff member or administrator he spoke to regarding the text messages.
Another assistant coach can be heard on the audio attempting to justify Brown’s action, saying that Brown’s language — even when filled with vulgarities — is used to encourage players, not humiliate then. That encouragement also is used to instill camaraderie on the team, the assistant coach says. That camaraderie is intended to create a cohesive atmosphere, the coach said.
“It’s family. And, we’re all family. And, you don’t tell on the family,” the coach said on the recording.
The unidentified assistant coach also told Alexiou that he feared Brown could be fired if this issue were made public.
Alexiou also conferred with Jessica Morgan-Tate, ICC’s compliance officer and Title IX coordinator, regarding his discrimination complaint. Alexiou also recorded that conversation. Morgan-Tate can be heard saying Alexiou’s complaint was “being taken very seriously” and that additional training would be given to Coach Brown and the coaching staff as it relates to discrimination.
Morgan-Tate also told Alexiou that Brown had been disciplined previously in a separate matter. However, the exact discipline measure — or the incident that led to it — was not disclosed during the conversation between Morgan-Tate and Alexiou.
Morgan-Tate also told Alexiou that she felt Brown’s text message with the Hitler reference was not warranted.
“I think we can all agree that the text message was terrible, truly terrible,” she said.
Asked by the Chronicle on Tuesday how he felt during the events of the past week, Alexiou said he never felt that anyone within the ICC administration or athletic department was sticking up for him, especially as it applies to discrimination based on nationality. That’s why he chose to post a screenshot of the text messages from Feb. 12 on social media.
“I don’t think it’s right,” he said. “I know I did some stupid things to get a suspension, but there are a lot of other incidents on the team that do not get reported.”
Asked if he feared retribution from the ICC team or the college now that the text message incident has reached social media, he said he did not know.
“I do know it’s a little weird,” he said. “But, there are a lot of people who have backed me since I posted the screenshot. The response has been incredible.”
Alexiou came to ICC after playing American football in Germany. He said he examined ICC and other community colleges via their websites to see which one would be the best for football. He read several articles about ICC’s rankings as they apply to quality of education and affordability. Additionally, he was made aware of the turnaround of the ICC football program during its 2017 season, which was featured in the Netflix television series “Last Chance U.”
He said he got to know Coach Brown and the assistant coaches not just through football meetings and practices but by also producing graphics and signs that promote the ICC football program. Those signs and graphics are made through the ICC Fab Lab. He said he has an interest in graphic arts and has enjoyed the experience of producing the signs.
During the course of the research for this story, the Chronicle received a comment from Richard Barnwell, a Los Angeles attorney representing Jason Brown. The Chronicle asked Barnwell if Brown would issue a response to Alexiou’s allegations. Barnwell said Brown denies the allegations from “a disgruntled adolescent.”
“Jason Brown will not comment on fallacies,” Barnwell said in an e-mail to the Chronicle.
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