PIKE COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - Attorneys for a south Alabama high school basketball star are asking a court to delay an upcoming hearing in her ongoing battle against the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
Tuesday, Charles Henderson High School athlete Maori Davenport’s attorneys filed an amended lawsuit and a motion with the Pike County Circuit Court asking that a hearing, set for Feb. 1, be pushed back.
Attorneys said they need a status conference to plan for the hearing, stating one day would not be enough time to run through all the issues before the court and that with testimony expected from around 20 witnesses, “it seems unlikely that the matter can be concluded in one day as currently scheduled.”
The AHSAA benched Davenport in November and deemed her ineligible to play for her senior season after USA Basketball gave her an $850 check after she played with the organization over the summer. The money, said to be issued as an oversight, was later returned, but AHSAA ruled the teen had violated its “amateur rule.”
Davenport sued the AHSAA in early January and won a temporary restraining order that restored her eligibility pending a judge’s ruling on the injunction.
The AHSAA then filed a motion to have the case dismissed, citing the court’s lack of jurisdiction over the voluntary association, or moved to Montgomery County Circuit Court, citing signatures by Davenport’s parents regarding litigation against the AHSAA.
Davenport’s attorneys are fighting both the dismissal and change of venue motions by taking aim at AHSAA’s claim that it is a private, voluntary organization, stating that that even though AHSAA was found in 1921 as a private organization, “it has evolved into a state actor.”
The attorneys base their claim on AHSAA regulating more than 150,000 student athletes across the state’s 780 high schools and middle schools “all while using state dollars and state facilities,” and stating that “schools effectively have no choice but to join the AHSAA to be allowed to take part in athletics.”
Davenport’s attorneys believe AHSAA is a state actor when it enforces its rules against member schools and student-athletes, stating it “should be treated as state action owing to the pervasive entwinement of state school officials in the structure of the association.”
“The plaintiff is affirmatively challenging any precedent that the defendants are entitled to heightened judicial deference or judicial restraint,” Davenport’s attorneys stated. They continue “because the AHSAA plays a role that goes far beyond that of a traditional voluntary organization, closer scrutiny of its actions is necessary and the Court should review this case with heightened scrutiny.”
Davenport’s attorneys contend their client has been denied due process rights protected by the Alabama Constitution and are seeking to have the AHSAA’s ruling against her deemed invalid, restoration of her eligibility granted, and an order “preventing the AHSAA from treating student-athletes disparately from other students.”