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Coalition Of Student-Athletes Fights For Right To Compete At Stanford University

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Law Firm of Winston & Strawn, Led by Jeffrey Kessler, Files Lawsuit with U.S. District Court Seeking the Continuation of Eight Cancelled Varsity Teams


May 12, 2021, 20:04 ET

SAN FRANCISCO, May 12, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The global law firm of Winston & Strawn today filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, for the Northern District of California, on behalf of a coalition of student-athletes at Stanford University whose teams were abruptly and unlawfully eliminated from varsity competition. The lawsuit contends that Stanford hid its secret plan to eliminate varsity teams from the students and their families in order to fraudulently induce the students to choose to attend, and remain, at Stanford, rather than pursue their dreams to play at the varsity level at another institution. Stanford deliberately led the students to believe that all of the school’s varsity teams would continue to be supported in order to prevent the rapid loss of student athletes, coaches and alumni support.

The eight cancelled teams that are the subject of the lawsuit (out of a total of 11 varsity teams that Stanford cancelled) are: men’s fencing, women’s fencing, field hockey, women’s lightweight rowing, women’s squash, synchronized swimming, wrestling, and men’s volleyball. While Stanford has publicly stated that it needed to cut the eleven teams to save $8 million a year, Stanford has a general endowment of nearly $29 billion.

The affected student-athletes and their families have joined forces to retain a legal team led by Winston & Strawn’s Co-Executive Chairman and leading sports law attorney Jeffrey Kessler, and Winston sports law partners Jonathan Amoona and Jeanifer Parsigian, to fight to save their teams. The lawsuit seeks redress for Stanford’s violations of California tort, contract and unfair competition laws, and a preliminary injunction to keep the teams in place while the lawsuit is pending.

“Stanford’s misrepresentations to these students and their families is in violation of California law and threatens to cause them lasting irreparable harm,” said Kessler. “The students are at the top of their game, and will lose the irreplaceable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfill their dreams to compete at the varsity level if Stanford is not stopped from eliminating these teams. Stanford has to live up to the relationship of trust it created with these athletes and we are seeking an injunction to prevent this injustice.”

Separately, members of the women’s fencing, field hockey, squash, lightweight rowing, and synchronized swimming teams filed their own federal lawsuit alleging that Stanford’s planned cuts to women’s teams violate Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in college athletics. The Title IX plaintiffs are represented by Rebecca Peterson-Fisher of The Liu Law Firm, P.C.

“One reason Title IX has been so successful at increasing women’s participation in college sports is the requirement that schools offer athletic opportunities to women and men that are proportional to the percentage of women and men in the student body,” said Peterson-Fisher. “Even before the planned cuts, Stanford’s athletic opportunities disproportionately went to men.  Their plan to cut these teams will widen the gender gap even further.  Stanford cannot go forward with these planned cuts without further violating Title IX.”

Winston & Strawn LLP is an international law firm with 15 offices located throughout North America, Asia, and Europe. More information about the firm and its world-renowned sports litigation practice is available at

The Liu Law Firm, P.C. is an employment and civil rights law firm based in Menlo Park, California.  The firm litigates on behalf of employees and civil rights plaintiffs across the country.  More information about the firm and its Title IX practice representing students is available at

SOURCE Winston & Strawn LLP