Former Hamady (Mich.) High School football player Destin Julian is suing his former coach, Gary Lee, as well as Hamady High and the Westwood Heights School District near Flint, Mich., alleging that he was forced to play through injury.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Julian says he suffered a helmet-to-helmet injury during practice in 2015 but Lee discouraged him from seeing a doctor and advised him to play two days later in the school’s homecoming game. During that game, Julian suffered another massive blow to the head and went into a seizure on the sidelines.
Now 19 and no longer playing football, Julian says Lee not only forced him to play when injured but created a climate of fear and intimidation in the locker room. According to the lawsuit, Lee referred to players as “sissies,” “ho” and used racial slurs when players talked about injuries, telling them to “play through the pain.”
Julian says that playing through head injuries has upended his life. He now has trouble focusing and paying attention. He also has anger issues and still has seizures, which prevent him from driving.
"I sent my son to school to learn. I trusted in the school system and the coach who said that he would take care of my son — and I believe that they did not do that," Julian's father, Patrick Julian, told the Free Press last week. "In this experience, we learned that it was about the wins."
Westwood Heights Superintendent Peter Toal said his district is committed to keeping athletes safe and noted that all coaches will now undergo head trauma training as required by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
Lee reportedly has a history of controversy and has had to forfeit games on four occasions because of fighting and using ineligible players.
"As far as I am concerned, those chapters are closed,” Lee told the Flint Journal back in 2013. "If a coach was really in the wrong for doing those kinds of things, then he would not be coaching anymore. It says a lot that several schools have had faith in me to coach their teams."