Mercer v. Duke University
The case of Mercer v. Duke University deals with the issue of women being allowed to play on contact sports teams. This case also raises issues of discrimination and whether or not federally funded institutions are prohibited from discrimination under Title IX. This is a very good case because it deals with a high-profile university and whether or not discrimination was an issue of one of the university’s college athletics.
The Mercer v. Duke University case was about a student named Heather Mercer who attended Duke University and tried out for the Duke Football team as a walk-on placekicker in the fall of 1994. Mercer was an all-state kicker at her former high ...view middle of the document...
” (Mercer v. Duke University ). Mercer also claimed that Goldsmith made offensive comments towards her such as why she was interested in football and why she didn’t want to “participate in beauty pageants rather than football and sit in the stands with her boyfriend rather than the sidelines. (Mercer v. Duke University ). At the start of the 1996 season, Mercer was informed by Goldsmith that she was no longer going to be on the football team and that she could try out for the team in the fall of the following year. When the 1997 season came around, instead of trying out for the team, Mercer filed a suit against Duke and Goldsmith.
The suit alleged sex discrimination in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1681-1688), and negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract in violation of North Carolina law. Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance….” (Breaux, Breaux and Brooks). Congress also gave the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) with responsibility for developing regulations in regards to how Title IX should be applied to athletic programs. Both Duke and Goldsmith filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Title IX. The district court granted the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Title IX on November 9, 1998. The district court also denied Mercer’s motion to alter judgment and Mercer went on the appeal the district court’s ruling.
The appeal was sent to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Mercer was the appellant and Duke and Goldsmith were the appellees. Duke and Goldsmith argued that because football was a contact sport, it was therefore excluded from Title IX coverage. Duke and Goldsmith said that under 34 CFR Sec. 106.41. Athletics, subsection (b) stated that:
Where a recipient operates or sponsors a team in a particular sport for members of one sex but operates or sponsors no such team for members of the other sex, and athletic opportunities for members of that sex have previously been limited, members of the excluded sex must be allowed to try out for the team offered unless the sport involved is a contact sport (Breaux, Breaux and Brooks).
Football was a listed as a contact sport, but the appeals court disagreed with Goldsmith’s and Duke’s attempt to appeal under the 34 CFR Sec. 106.41 (b) regulation. The reason why the court disagreed was because the appellees acknowledged that the athletic opportunities for women at Duke have been limited. The court also found that subsection (a) was met as well. Subsection (a) under the 34 CFR Sec. 106.41 regulation stated that:
No person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, be treated differently from another person, or otherwise...