BY MATTHEW GOGERTY
On Sept. 2, the Drake Athletic Department Administration fired Head Athletic Trainer Scott Kerr, 61.
Two days before, on Aug. 31, Kerr, reported that, on Aug. 29, he was unable to control his bladder, due to a medical condition that required him to drink a lot of fluids. This prompted Kerr to relieve himself in a whirlpool tub.
Kerr has now filed a lawsuit with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission against Drake University. He was given a one month severance package, but seeks full reinstatement.
Kerr was cleaning a whirlpool tub in a Drake Athletics locker room on Aug. 29 when he suddenly had the urge to urinate. Believing he would not make it to the restroom in time, he relieved himself in the tub, rather than on the floor or on himself. Kerr then
cleaned the tub, using bleach.
Kerr has been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate as well as a condition called neutrally mediated syncope, an ailment that requires he consume large amounts of water.
According to Kerr, he reported the incident to an associate athletic director on Aug. 31, two days after it occurred. A few minutes after he made the report, Kerr was contacted by Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb and was asked to leave the campus immediately.
A follow-up meeting was scheduled for the next day. According to the press release from Kerr and his legal team, Hatfield Clubb said in the meeting that Kerr had been an exceptional employee but was now “unfit” for his job. He was officially fired the following day.
In his statement, Kerr also claimed that Drake Athletics asked if he would be willing to train his replacement for a four-to-five week period. He refused this request.
Kerr sought legal counsel after his termination and, with his attorneys, Roxanne Conlin and Jerry Crawford, filed a formal complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
“This is illegal. It is illegal to terminate someone because they have a medical condition,” Conlin said in a press conference on Nov. 22. “Our own former senator Tom Harkin was the guiding force to change the law on the federal level and also on the state level.”
After initially declining to comment per personnel policy, Drake issued a statement to several news outlets including The Times-Delphic.
The statement asserted that Kerr was negligent to report the incident until a female colleague, who witnessed the incident, insisted that he report it.
It also asserts that Kerr had not requested any special accommodation prior to the incident and he had kept the university in the dark about his diagnoses.
“Hatfield Clubb consulted with human resources, university counsel, and university leadership before taking action in this case,” the statement said. “She gave full consideration to Mr. Kerr’s many years of service and felt the weight of the respect and concern that she personally feels for Mr. Kerr.”
Hatfield Clubb said in an email that she wanted “to emphasize that decisions made within Drake Athletics are centered upon Drake’s unwavering commitment to our student athletes’ health, safety, and well-being.”
Kerr’s attorneys disagreed with Drake’s statement. They responded with a follow-up statement of their own, saying that virtually no consideration was given, as Kerr was asked to leave the university within 15 minutes of reporting the incident. Kerr’s attorneys also said he was terminated before he could consult with his doctors.
Kerr’s son, Bryan Kerr, started a petition on Change.org in the hopes of getting his father reinstated. The petition, which set its goal at 2,500 signatures, has reached over 1,500 signatures thus far.
Among those signatures are the names of dozens of present and former Drake athletes.
Aimee DeVos, the head softball coach at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Drake alumna who graduated in 1993 after winning a Missouri Valley Conference Championship with Bulldogs Softball, remembers Kerr fondly.
“Here is a man who had been an incredible trainer, obviously had given his career to Drake University, and serving in a very difficult job as is,” DeVos said. “Particularly, you don’t see someone stay at a university for that long of a time, especially in the athletics department. So, I was hoping maybe there was more that could be done or more that could be heard on Scott’s behalf.”
DeVos expounded more on what she thought about the case and why she signed the petition.
“I read the article on the petition’s website and, I think when I read that at first, it seemed a little bit unfair,” DeVos said. “I didn’t quite understand the details. I know well enough that there’s more than one side to a story.”