In her two decades working in the Louisiana State University athletic department — a college athletics powerhouse — Sharon Lewis considered protecting the female workers and students a crucial part of her job. She said she was diligent about reporting racial and sexual offenses to her superiors — “several,” she said, filed over a span of 15 years, reports NBC BLK.
That is, until her superiors denied getting a single one of them, she said. “I couldn’t believe it. It was just all so overwhelming,” Lewis said. “I fainted.”
Lewis’ allegation is part of her $50 million Title IX lawsuit against the school, the board of supervisors, specific staff members and attorneys at the firm Taylor Porter, all of whom she alleges conspired in “unlawful discrimination with malice or with reckless indifference to federally protected rights to which she is entitled.”
She has a motion hearing next week in Louisiana to defend against the school’s efforts to have her case dismissed. Her comments to NBC News are her first extensive interview about her filing against one of the largest college athletics programs in the U.S.
While her work recruiting top athletes to come to LSU was integral to her job as the associate athletic director of football recruiting and alumni relations, she said that “protecting the school from itself became a part of what I had to do.” So she said she felt betrayed when she realized her colleagues had “lied,” she said, to protect the university, which also meant they were sacrificing her to do so.
Lewis said she sent her own complaints and those from student workers in the football department, as well as her colleagues, to her superiors, Verge Ausberry, executive deputy athletic director, and Miriam Segar, senior associate athletic director. But suddenly, according to the lawsuit, other administrators at the school claimed she had done no such thing. “I learned after the release of the Husch Blackwell Report in 2021 and Taylor Porter law firm documents that they were out to get me and that I was being set up,” Lewis told NBC News about her tumultuous time at her alma mater.
Her professional career at LSU ended Feb. 5 when she was fired during what the school called “a vast restructure.” She claims in her lawsuit that she endured years of discrimination and mistreatment — lack of equal compensation, sexual improprieties and harassment — stemming from being a Black woman who served as a whistleblower of bad behavior. Lewis also contends she was fired without cause and seeks damages.
For its part, LSU has denied her allegations.