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STERNBERG v. U.S.A. NAT. KARATE-DO FEDERATION

December 8, 2000

ILYSE GELLAR STERNBERG, PLAINTIFF,
V.
U.S.A. NATIONAL KARATE-DO FEDERATION, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Weinstein, Senior U.S. District Judge.

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This case raises a question of apparent first impression with respect to the rights of female athletes to compete in the Olympics. Plaintiff seeks redress for alleged violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX"), the Amateur Sports Act ("Sports Act"), and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendant moves to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The motion is denied for the reasons stated below.

II. FACTS

The Olympic Committee recognizes the United States of America National Karate Do Federation ("Karate Federation") as the national governing body for the sport of karate. While the Karate Federation does not receive any direct federal funding, the Olympic Committee did provide over forty million dollars to all national governing sports bodies, including the Karate Federation, in 1999. Without specifying an exact amount, Plaintiff alleges that the Karate Federation received direct and indirect funding from the Olympic Committee, and thus from the United States government.

Plaintiff is a member of the Karate Federation. She was selected as a member of the 1998 Women's Kumite (Karate sparring) Team after training in one of the Federation's camps. In 1998, she traveled to Brazil, expecting to compete for a position on the United States Women's Kumite Team in the World Championships.

Prior to the competition, the Karate Federation withdrew the Women's Kumite Team. The Men's Kumite Team participated in the World Championship. Plaintiff filed a grievance with the Karate Federation.

According to the plaintiff, Terrance Hill, the Women's Kumite Team coach, told her that the team was withdrawn because two members refused to participate and the Federation could not field a team without the requisite number of members. Plaintiff, however, alleges the two teammates referred to by coach Hill denied that they had refused to participate, indicated that they did not participate only because coach Hill and the Federation discouraged them, and that coach Hill did not want the team to participate for fear of the risk of injury to women.

It is plaintiff's view that the Federation did not conduct an impartial and unbiased investigation of her complaint. She contends that Dir. Julius Thiry, the president of the Karate Federation, assigned Thomas Burke, his personal Karate student and personal attorney, to investigate her claim; Dr. Thiry in turn arranged for a grievance board comprised almost entirely of his personal Karate students. Dr. Thiry allegedly attempted to prejudice Plaintiff's witnesses, pressured her husband to influence her to drop her grievance, and threatened her husband with the loss of his position as chairman of the Karate Federation Referee Council. After this lawsuit was brought, the Karate Federation removed Plaintiff's husband from his position as chairman of the Karate Federation Referee Council; he is not a party to the suit.

III LAW AND APPLICATION

A. 12(b)(6) standard

"A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. . . ." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court "must presume that the general allegations in the complaint encompass the specific facts necessary to support those ...


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