468 F.2d 1079 (10th Cir. 1972), 72-1078, Williams v. Eaton

Docket Nº:72-1078.
Citation:468 F.2d 1079
Party Name:Joe Harold WILLIAMS et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Lloyd EATON, as Football Coach of the University of Wyoming, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:October 31, 1972
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Page 1079

468 F.2d 1079 (10th Cir. 1972)

Joe Harold WILLIAMS et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,


Lloyd EATON, as Football Coach of the University of Wyoming, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 72-1078.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

October 31, 1972

Page 1080

C. Thomas Bastien, Denver, Colo. (David J. Hahn, Denver, Colo., on the brief), for plaintiffs-appellants.

Clarence A. Brimmer, Atty. Gen. of Wyo., Cheyenne, Wyo., for defendants-appellees.

Before HILL, SETH and HOLLOWAY, Circuit Judges.

HOLLOWAY, Circuit Judge.

This appeal is a sequel to our earlier consideration of this controversy involving several Black athletes of the University of Wyoming football team. They were dismissed from the team following a dispute over their intentions to wear black armbands during a football game with Brigham Young University. After their dismissal they sought relief by this civil rights action, claiming violation of First Amendment rights.

In the prior appeal we affirmed in part, sustaining the dismissal of claims against the State of Wyoming and all damage claims, but reversed a summary judgment and dismissal of claims for equitable and declaratory relief as to other defendants, and remanded for further proceedings. 443 F.2d 422. After a trial to the court on these remaining claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, the trial court made findings of fact and conclusions of law in favor of the defendants and dismissed again. 333 F.Supp. 107. Essentially the court upheld the defendants' actions in dismissing the athletes from the team on the ground that the Federal and Wyoming Constitutions mandated complete neutrality on religious matters which would have been violated otherwise by the armband display expressing opposition to religious beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on racial matters.

Page 1081

The general circumstances of the controversy have been set out by the trial court and our earlier opinion and need not be repeated. We feel it important to discuss the facts in detail based on the trial record only in respect to two principal issues which will be treated. 1 We believe the controlling issues on this appeal are as follows:

(1) whether findings of fact 14 and 15 made by the trial court, dealing with the purpose of the athletes in seeking to wear the armbands and the position they took thereon, are clearly erroneous;

(2) whether the determination by the Board of Trustees of the University refusing to permit the athletes to wear the armbands on the field during the game was a reasonable and lawful ruling or regulation under the principles of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, 393 U.S. 503, 89 S.Ct. 733, 21 L.Ed.2d 731, and similar cases.

We do not treat certain additional propositions forcefully argued for the athletes on this appeal. Arguments are made that the football coaching rule against participation generally by the athletes in demonstrations was invalid. However, we feel that questions concerning the rule need not be decided. The original dismissal of the athletes by Coach Eaton for violation of the rule was not the end of the matter. Later the controversy was considered by the Trustees and President Carlson at a conference with the athletes and the athletic officials. It was found by the trial court that the decision of the Trustees to sustain the dismissal of the athletes was made after this conference during which the athletes insisted on the right to wear the armbands during the game. And it was further found that the Trustees' decision was made on the ground that permitting the wearing of the armbands would be in violation of the constitutional mandate requiring complete neutrality on religion. 2 Therefore our decision focuses on the lawfulness of the Trustees' action.

Findings 14 and 15 and the purpose of the athletes in seeking to wear the armbands

The plaintiffs challenge findings 14 and 15 of the trial court, arguing that they are clearly erroneous under the test of United States v....

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