Steve Savarese and the Alabama High School Athletic Association decided to keep Maori Davenport off the basketball court, so her parents have decided to take their daughter’s case to a court of law.
Davenport’s parents filed a lawsuit on Thursday in the Pike County Circuit Court, in hopes that their daughter will be reinstated for the rest of her senior season.
Davenport’s name has been in the news all week because Savarese, the executive director of the AHSAA, ruled the 15th best player (per ESPN rankings) in the country ineligible. The 6-foot-4 forward/center at Charles Henderson High School in Troy, Alabama is committed to play at Rutgers University next season.
Davenport “crossed the line” because she cashed an $857.20 check she received from USA Basketball as a member of Team USA’s gold medal-winning team at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The check was a stipend for players who play for Team USA. Due to a clerical error made by USA Basketball, which did not check with the AHSAA beforehand, that stipend exceeded the maximum allowed for an amateur player in Alabama. And while Davenport returned the entire sum, Savarese refuses to reinstate her.
The AHSAA released a statement and stands by Savarese’s decision, because, to them, it’s a slippery slope that could possibly “exploit student-athletes” down the line.
The case has garnered national news as powerful figures in the sports world like Kobe Bryant, Billie Jean King, Chris Paul, the WNBA, Dawn Staley, C. Vivian Stringer and ESPN College Basketball Analyst Jay Bilas have all called for the Savarese and the AHSAA to reinstate her.
“There is one person standing in the way, and that’s the executive director Steve Savarese. And he refuses to rescind this ruling,” said Bilas last Saturday during a telecast of the Kentucky/Alabama game in Tuscaloosa.
“Who steps up? Who protects her?” Stringer told NJ Advance Media last week.
“Maori hadn’t done a doggone thing except receive the check from USA Basketball. It was grown-ups’ fault. And grown-ups did not lay claim to that. Maori sent the money back the next day. She’s a great kid, great student. She tried to do the right thing. And then the Alabama association … are you kidding me? This girl was up for player of the year, All-American. How can you do that?”
Maori’s parents, Mario and Tara Davenport, are listed as plaintiffs on the lawsuit and are being represented by the Cole Law Firm.