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Report: Racial discrimination led to Arsalan Kazemi leaving Rice for Oregon

Mar 29, 2013, 2:27 PM EDT

Oregon's Dotson and Kazemi celebrate in the closing moments of the Ducks' win over Saint Louis during their NCAA basketball tournament third round game in San Jose Reuters

In the months following the 2011-12 season there was a mass exodus of sorts from the Rice basketball program, as multiple players decided that they would be better off finishing their respective careers elsewhere.

Originally the thought of many was that the school’s decision to not renew the contract of assistant coach Marco Morcos as the reason why players such as Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi and USC’s Omar Oraby decided to leave. But according to a report from Thayer Evans of SI.com there was more at play than the simple decision to not bring back Morcos.

In Evans’ story it is alleged that Rice athletics director Rick Greenspan directed insulting and discriminatory remarks towards Morcos, Kazemi, Oraby and Ahmad Ibrahim on multiple occasions, with the remarks focusing on their respective religions and ethnicities.

Ibrahim, unlike Kazemi and Oraby, decided to play professionally in Lebanon instead of transferring to another four-year institution.

On Thursday, Kazemi, who is Muslim, declined to answer questions about the allegations he made against Greenspan in his hardship waiver request. “I won’t talk about that,” Kazemi said.

Greenspan, who was hired as Rice’s athletic director in March 2010, denied all of Kazemi’s allegations. “I’m glad he’s having success in the postseason, but we at the university categorically deny any allegations of discriminatory treatment that might be claimed during his time at Rice,” said Greenspan, who was previously the athletic director at Indiana and Army.

Morcos, who is of Egyptian descent and was responsible for a number of the foreign recruits who joined head coach Ben Braun’s program, filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in regards to the discrimination he encountered and the hostile work environment at Rice.

In Kazemi’s request for a hardship waiver, which was granted by the NCAA after he missed Oregon’s first two games of the season, he noted multiple situations in which Greenspan directed such comments towards the players.

Kazemi also accused Greenspan of telling him and other players in January 2012, “We only need one more guy to complete the Axis of Evil.”

Another time, Kazemi alleged he was talking in a foreign language to another player and Morcos when Greenspan walked by and told them, “Stop speaking in this language because you could be plotting against us.”

In his one season in Eugene Kazemi is averaging 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game for the Ducks, who take on Midwest Region 1-seed Louisville Friday night in Indianapolis. Leaving Rice worked out for Kazemi, who was one of Conference USA’s best front court players during his three seasons at the school.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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