Originally created 08/25/04

Claims lead to UGA coach's firing



ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Georgia cheerleading coach has been fired after a Jewish cheerleader had accused her of discrimination that kept the student off the football cheer squad.

Coach Marilou Braswell was fired for "discourteous and disruptive behavior" when she told the cheerleading squad about the discrimination allegations, according to Ms. Braswell's termination letter.

The cheerleader, 22-year-old Jaclyn Steele, said her chances of making the football cheerleading team were hurt because she didn't participate in Bible studies and pregame prayers encouraged by Ms. Braswell.

"It created an atmosphere where if you were not Christian or didn't want to participate, you weren't treated as well as the other girls," said Deborah Lauter, the Southeast region director for the Anti-Defamation League, which helped Ms. Steele with her complaint to the university.

UGA officials did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Ms. Steele declined to comment.

Ms. Steele was on the football cheering team her freshman year, but then was moved to the men's basketball squad and the women's basketball squad, seen as a demotion at the school.

The UGA athletics department promoted Ms. Steele back to the football squad for this season without having to go through tryouts. Athletics officials took this action to try to avoid a lawsuit by Ms. Steele, Ms. Braswell said.

"I've had each religion and race you can imagine, and I love each of them," Ms. Braswell told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"It's reverse discrimination against me. ... I've done nothing unfair to Jackie or any of the other cheerleaders."

No replacement has been named, and Ms. Braswell plans to appeal her firing.