OMAHA (KPTM) - A 25-million dollar lawsuit against the Nebraska School Activity Association will be filed next week. A group of African American referees say the organization is discriminating against them at the state basketball tournament. The group says this is the worst form of racism.
Abdul Shabazz has been officiating basketball games for the last six years, but he has never been asked to officiate a state basketball game. He has never even attempted.
"I don't care if they are black, white, green or yellow, just as long as they are the best officials that is calling these games, and you don't have the best officials now," Shabazz said.
The group of referees tells Fox 42 News that when it comes to the state basketball championships, minority officials aren't getting the same opportunities as white officials.
The group said in the last 10 years only 12 different African Americans have officiated a state game. Just last week they say only three of 36 officials were black.
"It is racism at its finest, its not just racism, it is racism at its finest," Shabazz said.
Two years ago Chanell Hickey complained about the issue of discrimination but he tells Fox 42 News since then the NSAA has not lived up to their promises.
"I think it is pure racism in front of everyone's eyes but nobody wants to admit it," he said.
NSAA Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green said in a statement to Fox 42 News, "I do believe that there is a fair selection process in place for the selection of officials. My understanding is that eight minority officials were assigned to officiate at the boys and girls state tournaments this year. Seven other minority officials who had registered to officiate and who had officiated enough games to be eligible to officiate the tournaments were not selected because their officiating ratings were lower than other officials who were selected. I will not comment on the selection process further due to the threat of legal proceedings."
The process for selecting an official depends on location and many of the African American referees live in a select area of Nebraska. The group believes location shouldn't play a factor in the selections. It should be the best referees in the state.
"All we are asking for is a fair opportunity," Hickey said.
"It is a beautiful thing that our kids have an opportunity to compete with one another we want them to have an opportunity to be officiating fairly and it is not going on," Shabazz said.
A group of 13 will be filing the lawsuit next week. The group says they have a tape with derogatory comments by a current NSAA official. They plan to release the tape later.