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UMass Lowell settles lawsuit by Black ball player

Phillip Martin
UMass Lowell settles lawsuit by Black ball player
Cedric Rose, a former UMass-Lowell Division 1 baseball player, sitting alone in the school stadium in April 2023. He was a celebrated player dismissed from the team by his coach, whom he accuses of racism. PHOTO: PHILLIP MARTIN, GBH NEWS

The University of Massachusetts Lowell has settled a bias lawsuit with a former student baseball player who alleged that he was dismissed from the team because he complained in his diary about the head coach’s alleged racism.

Cedric Rose had played in 52 of the team’s 58 games last year, including an 18-game hitting streak, and made the New England Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Team. He believes his ouster from the River Hawks in February eliminated his best chance to be seen by scouts from professional and semi-professional teams.

The school brought in an outside lawyer to investigate the allegations of racial discrimination. She determined that though former head coach Ken Harring may have directed harsh words toward Rose, who is Black, the coach’s behavior did not violate the school’s policies on harassment and retaliation. UMass Lowell, however, found that the interactions between coach and player did not “align with the university’s commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment.”

Harring stepped down as coach over the summer.

The announced settlement includes formal recognition of Rose’s 18-game hitting streak as the school record, payment of an undisclosed sum as compensation, and changes to UMass Lowell Athletics Department’s approach to race relations.

“The matter that Cedric Rose raised to UMass Lowell’s attention has been satisfactorily resolved to the satisfaction of both Mr. Rose and UMass Lowell,” the University said in a statement. “UMass Lowell will continue to advance a campus climate in which equity, transparency, fairness, safety, and inclusion are valued so that all of its members — faculty, staff, and students — can fully engage and thrive.”

Rose told GBH News he wished he’d never been dismissed, but that the settlement was a step in the right direction.

“There’s no amount of money that I would have put in over being able to play baseball,” he said. “It’s been a long, long year. So it’s good to be able to put this behind me and be able to put this in the past and move on in my life and, you know, go strive for Plan B.”

Rose and his parents, Michelle Johnston and Carl Rose, met Wednesday with UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen to discuss the settlement and the issues that brought them to this point.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel like finally facing the one person that really had the ability, the opportunity when I was pleading for help to step in and help get a more peaceful resolution that would have saved my son’s career and ultimately Ken’s career,” Johnston said. “But, you know, I met her. And she had a smile, and I felt it was a great opportunity for me to just really let her know the impact that she made — and not only on Cedric’s life, but on our lives.”

An attorney for the Rose family, Ed Burley, who was present at the meeting with Chancellor Chen told GBH that the settlement had wide-ranging implications.

“They talked about operational changes in a few key areas. One of those areas is not having the authority in decision-making concentrated solely in the head coach,” he said.

Cedric Rose is now apprenticing as a carpenter in Western Massachusetts.

“I don’t know if there are many opportunities out there for me now [in baseball]. It seems like it’s a closed chapter in my life,” he said. “And, you know, maybe I just wasn’t good enough to make it to the next level. So, now it seems like we’re moving on and doing good with our life.”

Still, Rose said he is leaving the door open to professional baseball, should the opportunity arise.

Phillip Martin is a senior investigative reporter for the GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting.

Cedric Rose, college sports, UMass Lowell