BATON ROUGE, La. -- A student-athlete born with only one kidney sued the University of Southern Mississippi on Wednesday, saying school officials pulled him off the football team after learning of his medical condition.
Deven Hammond's lawsuit accuses Southern Miss of violating federal anti-discrimination laws. The 20-year-old, now enrolled at Louisiana State University, says he's never had any kidney-related problems during football games or practices in high school or college.
But his federal suit contends that Southern Miss officials repeatedly raised "liability" concerns after he mentioned his condition to the school's head athletic trainer in June. Hammond's offer to sign a waiver of liability didn't persuade school officials to let the defensive back rejoin the team, the suit says.
"Protecting the USM's Athletic Program -- not Deven's health -- was the guiding star of (their) decisions," says the suit, filed in the Middle District of Louisiana.
Southern Miss athletics department spokesman Jack Duggan said he can't comment on pending litigation.
Hammond transferred to Southern Miss after his freshman year at LSU, where he practiced with the football team but didn't play in any games. He began practicing with the Southern Miss football team earlier this year after the university's Student Health Services Center cleared him to play, his suit says.
Hammond's kidney specialist also told the university that the risks of a kidney injury from football are "incredibly slim," according to the suit. However, in a memo dated July 17, an assistant athletic director said the health concerns could be "costly to the institution and Athletic Department, but more so the student athlete," the suit says.
Dan Disch, a member of the Southern Miss football team's coaching staff, also is named as a defendant. The suit asserts that Disch recruited Hammond to transfer to Southern Miss with the promise of a full scholarship if he made the team as a second-stringer or better after one semester.